Probe into social services links with Shannon family

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The Independent Online

An independent Serious Case Review will investigate the dealings of all agencies involved with Shannon Matthews' family before she went missing, the local council leader announced today.

Kirklees Council leader Robert Light said the review was commissioned by the Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board and follows growing concerns about the involvement of social workers in Shannon's life before she vanished on February 19.

Yesterday the schoolgirl's mother, Karen Matthews, 33, was found guilty of kidnapping her daughter, along with Michael Donovan, 40.

Mr Light said: "Matters surrounding the Karen Matthews trial are among issues that have put child care and safeguarding in the public eye this week.

"I think it is important that there is an independent review of the history and records of all agencies' dealings with the family.

"The review is being commissioned because of its significant importance.

"We support the review because any responsible local authority would want to be constantly reviewing its processes and working practices.

"We need to be reassuring ourselves, our partners, the public and others that we have in place and in practice the very best child protection and safeguarding systems possible.

"People will be rightly concerned to be reassured that those professionals working in the field of child care and safeguarding acted properly and professionally in their dealings with the family."

He added: "People must understand that, without exception, we do act on reports of serious concern that are made to us. They are followed through and appropriate action taken.

"But people must also appreciate that we are not always able to go back to them and tell them what actions we have taken, because we are dealing with children and individual families in a confidential manner.

"The other point to re-emphasise is that the council and the agencies it works with in all cases seek to achieve a proper balance between rigorous statutory intervention and social support for children and families who may be struggling to cope."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Officials have been in touch with Kirklees Council this morning.

"The Kirklees Local Safeguarding Children Board has now decided to commission an independent Serious Case Review to look at the details surrounding the Matthews family.

"It is essential that all the agencies involved in child protection services take a step back and consider whether anything different could have been done.

"We are pleased that the SCR will be independently chaired, consistent with Ed Balls' announcement this week."