Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Council orders Shannon case probe

Karen Matthews
Matthews was unable to put her children's needs above her own

An independent review has been ordered into the way social services dealt with Shannon Matthews's family before the schoolgirl was kidnapped by her mother.

The serious case review will look at the contact Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire had with the family.

And the Children's Minister Ed Balls has said that money would never be an obstacle to caring for children.

Karen Matthews was convicted on Thursday of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

The council had ordered a psychological report into Matthews more than four years before Shannon disappeared.

'Completely wrong'

The BBC has learnt the report in December 2003 said Matthews needed "constant monitoring" because of concerns for the welfare of her seven children.

Kirklees council leader Robert Light's statement

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

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."

Mr Light said the council supported the review "because any responsible local authority would want to be constantly reviewing its processes and working practices".

Shannon Matthews
Shannon Matthews was taken off the child protection register

He added: "People must understand that, without exception, we do act on reports of serious concern that are made to us."

Children's secretary Ed Balls told BBC Look North: "The idea that we would ever not take a child at risk of abuse or any other risk to their safety into care because of a financial obstacle, people would think that would be entirely and completely wrong and so do I.

"I don't think that court fees, or anything else should ever stand in the way of local authorities doing the right thing to make sure children are safe."

He said action would be taken if there were lessons to be learned from the case.

"But, at the end of the day, this was a mother who deceived the police, the social services, the media, all of us. For financial gain, she put her child's life at risk.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said he was pleased justice had been done

"That is a terrible, terrible thing to do. That is the true evil in this case and I am pleased that justice has been done."

In his call for a review on Friday, Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik said an independent review would be "sensible".

"I don't mean that I want heads to roll. It's not about blame," he added.

Earlier, another West Yorkshire MP warned against comparisons with the Baby P case and the associated criticisms levelled at Haringey Council in north London.

Matthews's co-accused, Michael Donovan, was also convicted of kidnap, false imprisonment and perverting the course of justice.

They will be sentenced at a later date after the trial judge has read reports about the two.



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