Cleveland – Over the course of a few months, 121 children from 57 families were removed from their homes and kept in hospital against their parents’ wishes, on Place of Safety Orders, diagnosed by two paediatricians of being sexually abused – the social workers and doctors were lambasted in the press and parliament. Instead of being accused of failing to protect, they were now accused of invading families.
Context was that professionals were waking up to the existence of child sexual abuse; Childline had been launched the previous year; also high profile inquiries into the deaths of Jasmine Beckford and Tyra Henry in their family homes meant social workers were afraid to be accused of leaving children in potentially abusive situations.
Most of the children were returned home and proceedings were dropped. An inquiry followed in 1988, chaired by Baroness Butler-Sloss (Secretary of State for Social Services (SSSS) (1988) Report of the inquiry into child abuse in Cleveland. Cm413. London: HMSO).