Shannon: Mother ‘unable to place children’s needs

Kirklees Social Services commissioned a psychological report on Matthews in December 2003 which was to “pay particular attention to her parenting style and her understanding of her requirements”, according to a BBC Panorama documentary.

It said the conclusion was that: “Her ability to protect her children is compromised by her inability to successfully place the children’s needs above her own. I believe that Karen will require constant monitoring and support throughout the lives of her children.”

According to the documentary, Matthews’s children were removed from the child protection register by the time the report was completed.

But, it said, there were persistent concerns about violence, poor conditions, lack of control and poor school attendance in the household.

Despite this, according to Panorama, social services decided to reduce its involvement because the family was “settling down”.

A former neighbour of Matthews at a previous address told the programme how she tried to alert social services about the conditions her children were living in.

Claire Wilson described one occasion when she looked after Shannon following a fight at Matthews’s home.

Ms Wilson said the little girl had filthy feet and head lice. She said she was very timid.

She said of Matthews: “The children to her seemed more of a bargaining chip and property rather than actual individuals that needed loving, needed looking after, needed feeding.”

Ms Wilson added: “I rang social services because it just got to the stage where I was so concerned about the children.

“But we just kept reporting it and nothing seemed to get done.

“We were saying that something’s going to happen to those children. How can you leave them in those conditions.”

She said the house was “filthy” and “stank”.

“You wouldn’t want to put a dog in there let alone a child,” she said

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