The council authority responsible for the care of Shannon Matthews has launched an inquiry into the dealings that social workers and other agencies had with the schoolgirl's family before her kidnap, after revelations that she had been taken off the at-risk register, and claims that warnings over her welfare had been ignored.
Kirklees Council, which was criticised in a separate review for failing to assess the dangers posed by a father with a history of violence who went on to kill his son, said it had initiated a serious case review to "reassure the public". A serious case review is only normally set up after the death, serious injury or sexual abuse of a child. But the authority was forced to react after the case of Shannon and the national outcry over the death of Baby P in Haringey, north London.
The mother of nine-year-old Shannon, Karen Matthews, was found guilty of kidnap and false imprisonment on Thursday along with her partner's uncle, Michael Donovan. They had hoped to collect a £50,000 reward for her daughter.
A former neighbour in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, told BBC1's Panorama that she had contacted social services in 2002 over suspicions of neglect after hearing Shannon repeatedly crying, and seeing dubious characters hanging around the house. A 2003 psychological report found Matthews was "unable to successfully place the children's needs above her own" and questioned her parenting ability.
Robert Light, the leader of Kirklees Council, said yesterday that there would be an independent review of the history and records of all agencies' dealings with the family: "We need to be reassuring ourselves, our partners, the public and others that we have in place and in practice the very best child protection and safeguarding systems possible. People will be rightly concerned ... that those working in the field of child care and safeguarding acted properly and professionally in their dealings with the family."
On Wednesday, it emerged that the Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board, which will oversee the inquiry into Shannon, found that agencies had also failed to address concerns in the case of Christopher Hawkins, 47, who murdered his son, Ryan, 14, at his home in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, last September, despite two previous allegations of physical abuse.