SHANNON Matthews and her siblings should have gone into local authority care, according to a former MP.
Child protection experts on Wednesday unveiled a report into the council’s contact with Karen Matthews and her children, including Shannon.
The nine-year-old disappeared from her home in Dewsbury Moor in February 2008.
After a massive police operation, she was discovered 24 days later at her stepfather’s uncle’s home, less than a mile away in Batley Carr.
Last year her mother, then 33, was jailed for eight years for her part in the abduction plot.
But this week’s report by Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board found social workers “could not have forseen” Shannon’s kidnap.
The investigation also revealed that Shannon had been placed on the child protection register six years before she was kidnapped over fears that she could be sexually or physically abused.
The report described Karen Matthews’ “low-level neglect” of her children, which never became serious enough for social workers to take them into care.
Shahid Malik was Dewsbury MP when Shannon disappeared and was the one who asked for the review.
He said: “The Matthews family won’t be unique, and there is an inability of social services to break these cycles of chronic neglect.
“Troublesome family situations are identified, social services intervene, the situation gets better for a while, then it gets worse again, and the whole cycle starts again. In this case it lasted 13 years.
“The perceived wisdom is that children are always better off with their parents. While that is overwhelmingly correct, in cases like this, where there has been sustained neglect, action does need to be more decisive.
“The threshold may not have been crossed on any one occasion in this case but we cannot accept that a cycle of neglect like this can continue for some 13 years.”
But Mr Malik, who lost his seat at last month’s General Election, added that the council had stuck to Government guidelines.
He said: “There is no suggestion that social services worked in any way other than via the procedures. This investigation was never about looking for scapegoats.”
Meanwhile social work expert Dr Bernard Gallagher warned yesterday that there were thousands of parents across the country as bad as Matthews.
The University of Huddersfield lecturer said: “Social services deal with thousands of families like that. These families are very challenging; they present real dilemmas.
“That’s the real problem for the country – what to do with all these families.”
Dr Gallagher added that taking children into care was not always the answer.
He said: “Most children will be traumatised by being taken away from their parents. There’s a shortage of foster parents and it’s massively expensive to put them in children’s homes.”