Police were left shocked and disgusted when officers discovered three young children tucked away in a Peterborough house living in filth and neglected by their mother.
A court was told of the appalling squalor which the trio were forced to endure before they were finally rescued by horrified officers, who removed them to a place of safety.
But sentencing their mother to three years in jail, Judge Sean Enright also hit out at Peterborough City Council’s children’s services for a “lamentable lack of urgency” in removing the children.
He said the three children had been on the council’s at risk register for more than a year before they were found by police, who had only called at the house on an unrelated matter.
The court heard that the mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons and who pleaded guilty to three charges of child neglect - one for each youngster - had left her children lying on a bed with vomit on it and with what appeared to be bloodstains on the mattress.
The room did not have any heating or lighting and there was more vomit and rubbish on the floor.
Police, who called at the house on December 28, 2011, found two other bedrooms appeared unusable.
Judge Enright said one room had rubbish strewn on the floor and no lighting, and the other was filled with rubbish and smelling of excrement.
There were also discarded alcohol bottles and cans in the house and rotting food in the kitchen.
He said the three had been referred to a paediatrician by social workers in August.
Despite doctors finding evidence of “ongoing neglect”, including ringworm and scars and bruises on the youngest child for which the mother could not explain, the children were still not removed.
Judge Enright told Peterborough Crown Court that a paediatrician’s report should have given grounds for “immediate action”.
He said: “There was no doubt social services owed these children a duty of care and had social services acted properly these matters might have been nipped in the bud.
“Social services could and should have sought a court order to get access to these children.”
He added: “It’s a shocking situation.”
This is merely the latest criticism of the activities of the children’s services department from this time.
In May 2010, three interim managers and three agency social workers had their contracts terminated for their part in introducing an electronic system which caused a backlog of cases between December 9, 2009 and January 6, of 2010.
It followed criticism from Ofsted, which, in September of last year, found that the authority was inadequate in seven of the nine safeguarding categories, leading to the resignation of the head of children services John Richards.
Later, a serious case review into the council’s handling of the tragic Tyler Whelan case criticised children’s services for failing to adequately follow up initial concerns raised about the Whelan family prior to the death of the five-year-old in March 2011.
Tyler’s mother Stephanie was jailed four years in June for allowing his death while her boyfriend Elvis Lee was jailed for life in May for kicking and beating the child to death.
Malcolm Newsam, executive director of the council’s children’s services, said the latest case had occurred when the department was under “immense pressure”.
He said: “Since then fundamental changes have been introduced and the department has made rapid improvements.
“In the past year we have addressed the pressures and demands on staff. A new leadership and management structure is in place, all of whom have vast experience in children’s social care, we have recruited an additional 25 social workers and an improved computerised recording system helps managers check the quality and timeliness of work completed.
“These changes have ensured our social workers now have manageable workloads and are able to respond appropriately when families cause concern.”
Have your say:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our Your Say page to get in touch or write to us
Investigations into possible abuse by people who work with children resulted in two sackings and seven suspensions in Peterborough last year.
Figures released in the annual report of the Peterborough Child Safeguarding Board reveal the outcome of 28 allegations made against people who worked with children in the city between April 2011 and March 2012.
The allegations concern either a person harming a child; committing a crime against them; or behaving in such a way that indicates unsuitability to work with children.
Five of the 28 allegations were made against social care workers in Peterborough City Council’s children’s services department, which was the subject of a damning Ofsted report in August 2011.
Eight allegations were made against people working in schools, two against those in early education, two in faith groups, and four were made against foster carers.
The figures show that 11 of the allegations were substantiated, resulting in the suspension of seven workers, two of whom were dismissed.
However, the council has been unable to provide information as to where those who were sacked worked, nor the nature of the substantiated allegations.
The allegations resulted in seven criminal investigations and one conviction.