Vulnerable children have not always received the best care, Kirklees Council has admitted.

Eight years after the notorious Shannon Matthews kidnap case, Kirklees has said it has uncovered shortcomings with some of its social work.

A probe was launched last year and 22 cases of sub-standard care were identified from the past two years.

But the council’s cabinet member for family support and child protection, Clr Erin Hill, has said she is confident no youngsters were harmed because of the errors.

Clr Erin Hill
Clr Erin Hill

Clr Hill said she had instigated the review following concerns about incomplete paperwork and poor service for children and young people referred to social services.

But she vowed that changes had already been implemented to bring Kirklees up to scratch.

New managers have been brought in and overworked social workers have been given more support.

The investigation has been highlighted by the council to the Examiner ahead of its publication later this month.

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Clr Hill, who was appointed to the cabinet job a year ago, said she wanted to be upfront that some issues had occurred but said she was assured the department was back on track.

She said the 22 cases bore no similarity to the Shannon Matthews case in Dewsbury in 2008 and denied that mistakes highlighted from that scandal had not been corrected.

Karen Matthews, who was jailed after claiming her daughter Shannon was missing, when all the while she was staying at a friend’s house

“We should always been making improvements,” said Clr Hill.

“If we get to a point where we say, ‘right, we’re done now’, that would be wrong.

“We’re learning all the time about how to deal with vulnerable children and I think it’s right that we’re looking at our own practices.

“The Shannon Matthews case was a horrendous incident.

“But of the 22 we’ve looked at, it’s not of that nature and we’ve made sure that they’re all safe.

“Going through the cases we found some areas of concern. We also found some very good practices but we also found areas where social work practice wasn’t up to the standard we want it to be.

“On the same day we picked them up we sent people out to see them.

“We’re confident that no-one was harmed.

“Those children have been seen, spoken to on their own, and their families and schools have been spoken to.

“Every one of those has either been escalated as appropriate or dealt with so I’m re-assured that we’ve picked it up.”

Clr Hill would not reveal if anyone had been disciplined or fired and said the timing of the departures of the department’s director, Alison O’Sullivan, and assistant-director, Paul Johnson, were already planned before the investigation began.

Former Kirklees Council's director for children and young people Alison O'Sullivan

She said: “We introduced this not as witch hunt but as a way to improve across the board.

“We’ve had staff leaving as planned but we’ve also brought in a lot of new managers to ease that transition.

“We’ve initiated it to improve; it’s not some sort of ‘night of the long knives’.

“I’m absolutely sure that none of our social workers have purposely done anything wrong.”

Clr Hill said both paperwork and quality of care problems had been identified in the inquiry and a new Children’s Development Board had been set up in response.

“The board has met several times and we’re starting to see a real shift in practice,” she said.

“What became clear was that particularly some of our junior staff hadn’t always been given the right guidance or been told what was expected of them, which is where some of the things had gone wrong.

“Our absolute priority is the safety of children and young people.

“That’s true in all parts of the council not just children’s services.

“I’ve been impressed with how quickly staff have come round and I’m more re-assured than I was six months ago that I’m able to say they are safe.”