Girl, 10, found in squalor with dying father

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The Independent Online
Social workers left a 10-year-old girl in appalling conditions to care for her dying father, it was claimed yesterday. The child had been struggling to cope in horrendous conditions for weeks before social services acted.

The girl's plight only came to light when she told a children's home worker, Peggy Calder, what was happening when they met at a disco organised to raise funds for the home.

Ms Calder, 46, who works at a children's home in Skegness, Lincolnshire, decided to investigate and was appalled by what she found. "I went to the house with her and I couldn't believe my eyes - I could have cried," she said. "I have never seen anything like it.

"There was a dead guinea pig and a dead bird in their cages in the kitchen and there were hundreds of maggots in the bottoms of the cages. The house was knee-deep in all manner of things. You needed a gas mask.

"There were hundreds and hundreds of mouse droppings under the sink. She told me they had been having a lot of trouble with mice and she had been trying to trap them in the oven."

It was not until weeks later that the child's 59-year-old father was eventually admitted to hospital dying of lung cancer. The girl's parents were divorced seven years ago. Her mother, who knew nothing of her daughter's plight, is now re-married and living with her new family in Kent.

Ms Calder said the girl, who had scabies, was starving because her father, who gave up his factory job and was bedridden, was too ill to cook for her."She told me she was doing her best but had run out of recipe ideas. That is from a 10-year-old. It was heartbreaking."

Ms Calder said she approached social services immediately but heard nothing from them so over a week later she took matters into her own hands and escorted the child to the Skegness office. "Then they went to the house to offer some help but her father refused because he was scared she would be taken away from him.

"A social worker called later and told me they could do nothing because they couldn't go barging into people's houses where they weren't wanted.

"But they didn't do anything else after that. I went down a third time, but they didn't want to know. I was given an emergency number but I got absolutely nothing from that either." In the end, Ms Calder phoned the police and arranged for an ambulance for the girl's father.

Lincolnshire Social Services area manager, Norman Pitcher, claimed social workers acted quickly to assist the family. "As soon as we were aware of the situation we attended and offered our services but they were refused," he said.

"But we are trying to work with the family as we always do rather than just stepping in and taking over."

The girl is now living at the Derbyshire Children's Home in Skegness and Ms Calder has begun legal proceedings to adopt her.