An expert in protecting vulnerable children says West Yorkshire teenager Jordan Burling would have survived if it wasn’t for a loophole that meant authorities had no obligation to check on him.
Jordan, 18, died after being allowed to ‘rot to death’ by his mother Dawn Cranston, 45, and 70-year-old grandmother Denise Cranston at his home in Farnley, Leeds.
The teenager, who was so emaciated when emergency services found him dead on a mattress in the living room he was likened to a WWII death camp victim, had been home schooled for seven years.
But because of this, authorities missed a vital opportunity to save him, according to a leading expert in child protection.
Dr Bernard Gallagher from the University of Huddersfield said there is currently no legal obligation for authorities to check the education and welfare of children who are educated at home. Because of this, the appalling levels of care taken of the teenager went unnoticed, despite Leeds City Council having been previously made aware of his vulnerability.
Dr Gallagher, a research leader into protecting children from abuse and neglect, says the law is not doing enough to help young people suffering from neglect.
He said: “It is staggering that routine checks are not carried out on young people who are taken out of school, particularly when schools these days are subjected to frequent scrutiny from Ofsted.”
Dawn and Denise Cranston were jailed for four and three years respectively after a jury found them guilty of manslaughter at Leeds Crown Court this week. Dawn’s daughter Abigail Burling was also sentenced to 18 months for not stepping in to prevent Jordan’s death.
Dr Gallagher added: “The truth is we do have child abuse and neglect and this is often brought to authorities’ attention through schools and staff. I think inspectors should be going into homes to check on children taken out of school.
“Had this been done in Jordan Burling’s case, someone would have seen not only that he was no doubt receiving a rubbish education, but also that he was a victim of shocking levels of neglect. Checks on the family home would have no doubt saved his life.”
A report published by the Government in May sets out plans for a Bill to ensure social services must carry out inspections on the development of children educated at home. The consultation on the briefing closed on Monday last week and a response from the Government is currently pending.
Jordan was removed from high school after just two terms in year seven when he would have been between 11 and 12, with his education supposedly in the care of mother Dawn Cranston for seven years.
Dr Gallagher added: “I have read some disturbing details about Jordan’s case and it was clear even back when he was in school that he was being neglected.
“However, I will stress that the only people responsible for Jordan’s death are his mother and grandmother. The only thing I will say is that authorities should be more assertive over intervening wherever there may be a chance that a child is being neglected.”