Call for review of Hampshire social workers’ cases after report

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Dr John Steadman, archivist of Portsmouth History Centre based at Portsmouth Central Library     Picture:  Malcolm Wells

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CALLS have been made for a ‘wholesale review’ of cases where children have been taken into care after a judge criticised social workers.

Judge Mark Horton named the Hampshire County Council staff involved in what he called a ‘deliberate and calculated’ attempted doctoring of report.

Now a family whose child was removed by the courts after an application by the council has called for a review in all cases.

‘I personally would like to see a wholesale review of all cases where those social workers, the named social workers, have been involved,’ a father told The News.

‘I’d like for that to be done independently of Hampshire County Council.

‘There have been incredulous comments that the county council has made in the past few days.

‘The public can’t see justice being done with a review conducted by themselves.’

The man was not involved in the case Judge Horton made a judgment about, but cannot be named.

His child was removed from him by the court in separate hearings involving some of the named social workers.

He also wants to see an investigation by the Health and Care Professions Council, the social workers’ regulatory body.

And he said family court proceedings – which are held in secret – were incredibly stressful.

Judge Horton outlined a series of concerns in the case involving children aged between 16 and three.

The judgment was made after hearings in Portsmouth.

He concluded that the children should stay in the care of the council and approved fostering plans put forward by social service staff.

Judge Horton said: ‘It is exceptional to find a case in which there has been deliberate and calculated alteration of a report prepared by one social worker in order to make that assessment seem less favourable, by another social worker and the team manager; the withholding of the original report when it was ordered to be disclosed and the parties to the alterations lying on oath, one of them twice, in order to try to cover up the existence of the original report.’

Social worker Sarah Walker Smart had ‘lied twice to me on oath’, said the judge.

e said he had been told that she had been promoted to a ‘team manager’ in Hampshire council.

Kim Goode had been Sarah Walker Smart’s manager and ‘was the person who initiated the wholesale alteration of the original report and who attempted to keep the truth from the parties and me’, said the judge.

He said she had gone on to become ‘district manager for the Isle of Wight’.

Lisa Humphreys had been Kim Goode’s manager, said the judge.

‘Her evidence was deeply unimpressive,’ he added.

He concluded that at one stage the children had been illegally removed from their parents’ care - and that a ‘fair parenting assessment’ had not been carried out.

The county council issues around 160 care proceedings each year.

In a statement, Steve Crocker, Interim Director of Children’s Services at Hampshire County Council, said: ‘Firstly, the authority wishes to make it clear that the Judge in this case ultimately agreed with the social workers’ arguments that the children were suffering significant neglect and needed to be protected through alternative care arrangements.

‘The social workers named by Judge Mark Horton have exemplary records and have our full support.

‘We are gravely disappointed that the judge saw fit to name them in these terms.

‘The county council respects the judgement that has been handed down in this case and has complied with the instructions given.

‘However, the county council has reviewed the circumstances and documentation surrounding the case and does not agree with the statement that a social worker lied to the court.

‘The county council is considering its position with regard to how to make further representations on this matter.

‘The county council reiterates the point that, despite Judge Mark Horton’s personal comments, he ultimately agreed the outcome that we, including the named social workers, wished to secure; specifically, the approval of care orders to protect a family of very vulnerable children who remain in our care - and whom the Judge, in agreement with our social workers, said had suffered “appalling neglect”.’