Almost from the day she was conceived, Gloucestershire let her down.
Before she was even born, in 2009, she was made the subject of a ‘Child Protection Plan’ because there were serious concerns based on the neglect already shown to her half-sister Charlotte.
By the time she was three, Megan was placed into a ‘Special guardianship order’ by the authorities to be looked after by her paternal grandmother. Without doubt, her first two years would have been very sad, but what followed next was even worse.
Megan is the name given her in the serious case review, published this week. Damningly, the report says, ‘What is worrying in this case is the noticeable absence of hearing the voice of Megan – and when she did raise concerns it was not fully explored or acted upon sufficiently.
Megan’s daily life was one of severe physical and mental neglect and abuse; a life without love or affection, which at the age of six saw her admitted to hospital, described as ‘acutely unwell’.
From the day of her birth, Megan’s status in this world was that of a ‘Child in care’. The reality was care seemed to be missing. She had no voice, she was neglected, abused and failed every day of her tragic life.
“A child in care should be that”
Megan is now living in long-term foster care. I’m told she is doing OK and I really hope that is the case. None of us can change what happened to her and I doubt the criminal conviction of those who hurt her will help much. The least is that I hope someone has said sorry but, if they have, I’ve missed it.
Gloucestershire County Council graded ‘Inadequate’ for children’s services and Gloucestershire Constabulary told ‘Improvements were needed in its child protection investigations’, both in 2017, were low points for the county. Those of us in positions of authority have said, ‘Never again’, but words alone are not enough.
The county council is now committed to making real change and improvement. For my part, I have commissioned work to understand how Gloucestershire needed to change. It comes under the heading of ‘Child Friendly Gloucestershire’ and is being led by Dame Janet Trotter.
A ‘child in the care’ in Gloucestershire’ should be that – a child we all care about and not just a label or status.