Tiffany Sellman Burdge case being an “isolated incident”

kreynolds made this Freedom of Information request to Kent County Council

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The request was partially successful.

Dear Kent County Council,

I wish to ask some questions under FOI legislation to Rosalind
Turner, Managing Director, Children Families and Education (Kent
County Council) or any other council executive who wishes to answer
relating to the recent news article published here:

Getting down to the serious business of protecting children and what’s is/is not going on in Kent let me detail the following questions:

Quote: “A shortage of social workers is placing "serious burdens" on Kent County Council and could affect its ability to protect children from abuse or neglect, a report has warned.”
“The warning comes in a review of children’s social services commissioned by KCC in the wake of the 'Baby P’ tragedy.”

1) Can you provide a copy of this report? People in Kent and the wider community
have a right to at least see it and I would personally like to see a copy as I would imagine many others would with concerns about KCC Social Services.

“The report also reveals that between 15 to 20 per cent of calls made to the county council about possible child neglect over the period of the review were “abandoned”

2) Have the “abandoned” calls been traced and dealt with as appropriate?

3) Can you explain Mrs. Rosalind Tuner’s explanation of the Tiffany Sellman Burdge case being an “isolated incident” with the fact at that time you was “abandoning” 15-20% of calls made at that point in time. I.e. you were not investigating claims/calls coming through of abuse made by family members/police so on and so forth
What was the procedure for “abandoning” calls? Was there a procedure? Please explain.

4) Of the “abandoned” calls how many have subsequently been found to be legitimate or has any investigation been held into this issue?

5) Was Tiffany Sellman Burdge one of the “abandoned” calls?

Ms Rosalind Turner claimed to the press that the “failure to pass on information” in the Tiffany Sellman Burdge was an “isolated example of human error.”

6) If at that time in the words of this report Kent County Council was “abandoning” at least 15% - 20% of such calls of concern/referrals how could the Tiffany Sellman Burdge case be classed as an “isolated example of human error.”

7) Should an independent enquiry not be held into all these “abandoned calls”? Has the NSPCC or any outside body looked into this?

8) Ms Rosalind Turner say’s there is no systemic failure within KCC children’s services but this report appears to suggest that concerns/referrals were being routinely ignored. Please explain?

Copy news report:
Shortage of Kent social workers left service under pressure - and with some calls abandoned
by political editor Paul Francis
A shortage of social workers is placing "serious burdens" on Kent County Council and could affect its ability to protect children from abuse or neglect, a report has warned.
The warning comes in a review of children’s social services commissioned by KCC in the wake of the 'Baby P’ tragedy.
The report also reveals that between 15 to 20 per cent of calls made to the county council about possible child neglect over the period of the review were abandoned and some referrals have taken up to five days to process.
However, the council said it had now cleared the backlog and was taking steps to improve the way calls were dealt with.
The shortage of social workers comes as Kent, in common with other authorities, has recorded a dramatic rise in child protection referrals since the publicity surrounding a series of high-profile child abuse cases.
Referrals rose by 22 per cent in Kent last year to 17,360 - an increase of more than 5,000.
The report, Safeguarding Children in Kent: Defending and Developing The Service, says that in January, vacancy rates in some child protection teams were as high as 40 per cent. Overall, just under a third of vacancies across all social worker posts were unfilled.
KCC said more staff had since been recruited and it currently had about 60 posts vacant out of 334 - just under one in five. It has allocated an additional £1.5m for recruitment.
The report, due to be presented to county councillors on Monday states: "Despite the recruitment of overseas social workers and a continued programme of recruitment, the peaks in vacancy rates in individual teams coupled with the marked increase in referral rates places serious burdens on remaining staff, which can present a potential risk to maintaining a safe child protection system."
In a foreword to his report, KCC chief executive Peter Gilroy says "it portrays a service that is just about coping with some difficult pressures but with its morale intact."
It makes a series of recommendations but concludes there is no evidence to suggest "significant risk or clearly dysfunctional working in the inter-agency child protection processes."
KCC was criticised recently after failing to heed warnings about a violent father, Christopher Sellman, who killed his 25-day old baby Tiffany.
However, social services chiefs insist everything is being done to ensure child protection is not compromised by staff shortages.
Helen Davies, director of specialist childrens services at KCC, said that despite the difficulties, safeguarding vulnerable children was a top priority.
"The [recruitment] situation is not unique to Kent," she said. "We are fortunate that the county council is putting more resources in as recognition of the increase in child referrals and the numbers with child protection plans.
"It is difficult to recruit to all these new posts at the moment and we are doing what we can to get staff from overseas and fill our vacancies with temporary staff. Our managers are exercising sound judgement about those children who are a priority and continue to do so."
She acknowledged that staff shortages were "putting pressure on staff and managers as we are trying to pinpoint priority work" and that it was "not ideal" that some vacancies were being filled by temporary locum staff.
"We are dealing with around 20,000 referrals a year and have about 1,200 children needing protection plans, which is a massive amount to deal with," she said.

Yours faithfully,


Kent County Council

Dear K Reynolds

Thank you for your email below.

I acknowledge your request for information under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000. Assuming we hold this information, I will endeavour
to supply the data to you as soon as possible but no later than 28th April
2010 (20 working days from date of receipt).

I will advise you as soon as possible if we do not hold this information
or if there are exemptions to be considered and/or any costs for providing
the information. Please quote our reference - FOI/10/0376 in any
communication regarding this particular request.

Best regards

Corporate Access to Information Team, Chief Executive's Department
Kent County Council, Legal & Democratic Services, Room B.48, Sessions
House, County Hall, Maidstone. ME14 1XQ.
Tel: 01622 696265 or 01622 694261 - Fax: 01622 696075

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kreynolds left an annotation ()

Mr Peter Gilroy associate (OBE) had an article in today’s Guardian and it’s also online in a blog entitled “Joe Public” although getting £200,000 to leave your job post hardly “Joe Public”

A link now available to the review document which KCC now appear to have put online. He does not mention the murder of Tiffany Sellman Burdge in his short article.

The review is now available online via the KCC website:

Kent County Council's review identified a 22% rise in referrals to children's services between April 08 and March last year. There is no mention of how many of these cases are “replicates” that is to say the same name/family coming into the system on more than one occasion. For example in the Tiffany Sellman Burdge case there was multiple referrals. Although in that case I’m not sure if they were registered at all due to “isolated incident of human error” and “the problem is he had no conviction as I say” – Source BBC news:

Kent County Council

1 Attachment

Dear Mr Reynolds

Thank you for your request for information made under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000. Please accept my sincere apologies for the delay in
sending this information to you. I appreciate we have not complied with
statutory timescales on this occasion.

1) The report 'Safeguarding Children in Kent: Defending and Developing
the Service' is a public document. I have attached a copy for your
information. It can be found on the Kent County Council website at:

2, 3 & 4) The abandoned calls in the report refer to all calls made to
the Kent County Council, not specifically calls regarding child neglect.
The Kent Contact and Access Service and Contact Kent which take the calls
are monitored for performance. *Abandoned calls* is a term used to
describe when a person telephones Kent County Council but is not responded
to quickly enough and rings off. Both KCC call centres are have been
reviewed to improve their performance. The five day backlog of
referrals to Children's Social Services has been resolved and there is no
longer a backlog. This information is referenced in paragraph 60 of the

5) The two professionals who had information regarding Tiffany Burdge did
not use the Contact Centres to try to refer her.

6) Ms Turner's reference to an 'isolated example of human error' was in
response to questions about the actions of professionals working with
Tiffany Burdge.

7) Kent County Council has already reviewed its call centres and is
taking action to make improvements.

8) I have attached the Kent County Council report for your information
for you to read from source the contents of the report. The Paul Francis
article is third party information and Kent County Council is not required
to comment under a Freedom of Information Request on interpretations made
by third parties.

If you are unhappy with this response, and believe KCC has not complied
with legislation, please ask for a review by following our complaints
process; details can be found at
this link:[2]
on our website. Please quote reference FOI/10/0376.

If you still remain dissatisfied following an internal review, you can
appeal to the Information Commissioner, who oversees compliance with the
Freedom of Information Act 2000. Details of what you need to do, should
you wish to pursue this course of action, are available from the
Information Commissioner*s website


Michelle Hunt
Access to Information Co-ordinator
Communication & Information Governance
Children, Families & Education Directorate
Kent County Council
Room 2.35, Sessions House
Maidstone, Kent, ME14 1XQ
External: 01622 696692
Internal: 7000 6692
Email: [4][email address]

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kreynolds left an annotation ()

'This case illustrates the need to listen to non-professionals who 'blow the whistle', as the paternal grandparents tried to do in this case.
Read more: