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Family Law

The leading authority on all aspects of family law

16 JUN 2010

Serious case review clears Shannon Mathews' social workers

PoliceA serious case review has concluded that the abduction of Shannon Mathews could not have been foreseen by social workers and other agencies involved with her family.

The nine-year-old girl disappeared after a swimming trip with her school in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, in February 2008, sparking a £3m police search. The subsequent police investigation revealed that the girl's mother Karen Matthews and her stepfather's uncle Michael Donovan had planned the abduction and they were both jailed for eight years. The girl was found hidden in the base of a divan bed in Mr Donovan's flat.

The Kirklees safeguarding children board review looked into safeguarding issues and different agencies' involvement with the five children in the Mathews family between 1995 and 2008.

The review found that there was "little leeway" for social services and other agencies to intervene before Shannon was abducted in February 2008.

"The overview panel concluded that the third-born child's abduction could not have been foreseen by professionals involved in this case on the basis of their historical and current knowledge about the family," the report said.

"This case starkly demonstrates the difficulty of responding effectively to families where parenting is characterised by low-level neglect which at times escalates into inadequate parenting with detrimental consequences for children's wellbeing."  

The review concluded that the family's history was characterised by "neglectful parenting interspersed with periods of adequate parental care".

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