Yorkshire mum found sleeping rough in park with two babies after eviction

A mum, her husband and two babies were found sleeping rough in a park late at night after they were evicted from a house infested with cockroaches.

The woman, a teenage mum who may have been sexually exploited, reported that she had been evicted and had been street homeless for three weeks and was surviving on £140 child benefit and 'cash in hand' money earned by her husband. Her Universal Credit had been stopped a year before due as her immigration status was not settled.

The shocking story is recounted in a child safeguarding review into the life of the mum and her three children, who suffered an extended period of neglect while living in Bradford and elsewhere, with mistakes and a lack of action from the authorities who made assumptions and did not properly look into the children's lives.

Read more: Rotherham taxi driver raped two girls and thought he'd escaped for 20 years but now he is facing justice

Child protection medical examinations found that Danuka*, aged two, and Sara*, 11 months, were in 'significant pain' due to injuries. Danuka had fractured ribs and liver damage, while Sarah had severe nappy rash. The social worker who visited the family home was commended in the report for her swift response in ensuring the girls were quickly taken to hospital.

The mum, who was born in Eastern Europe with a Romani background, had at least six different men in her life, but the nature of the relationships were not known to the authorities, and there were indications of possible exploitation.

Aged 13/14, the mum was living in her country of origin but when she returned to the UK aged 14 she was five months pregnant. She reported that she did not remember how she got pregnant due to 'being drunk'. The family's engagement with health services was described in the report as 'intermittent' between April 2016 and October 2018.

At 17, the mum went to live with a man about whom there were concerns of sexual abuse and exploitation. At 19, Bradford Children's Social Care was informed about police call outs to the family home due to threats from mum's partner. Over an eight-week period from February to April 2020 there were nine incidents of concern. Bradford social services received two anonymous tips that mum was in a relationship with a violent man and that she was using drugs.

A week later, social services received another anonymous referrals to say mum was taking crystal meth in the street with daughter Danuka present. A social worker concluded the referral was malicious and due to a dispute with the landlord.

The report notes four incidents involving the police that do not appear to have been shared with Bradford social services. Between February and March 2021 there were 'escalating concerns' about unmet health needs of Danuka and Sara due to missed health appointments.

During a home visit by a health visitor, the house was found to be chaotic and overcrowded but 'warm interactions' were observed between mum and the children. There were signs of drugs being bought from the house by young women. This was shared with a social worker but led to non action.

In June 2021, sexual health services visited mum at home and were concerned at the state of the house, which was infested with cockroaches and a Stanley knife was on the floor in reach of the children. In September a member of the public noticed the mum, a man she described as her husband and two young children sleeping in a park late at night. Danuka was just 20 months old and Sara nine months. Emergency housing was provided.

The housing assessment concluded that because mum did not have settled immigration status, she had no entitlement to housing assistance. Mum said she had been evicted and was living on £140 per month child benefit.

The family was provided with temporary accommodation in a hostel inhabited by drug users and sex workers. The police found the accommodation to be completely unsuitable for the children as they had no beds to sleep in and there were safety hazards. No action was taken to address the inappropriateness of this housing.

In December 2021, a social worker was told by a project worker to say that mum and her partner were using drugs and the children were being left home alone. The social worker went to the hostel twice in the next two weeks but no one was at home. "This was not a sufficiently robust response," the report noted.

Two weeks after the original concerns had been shared the children became the responsibility of a new team and there was an 'appropriate review' of their circumstances. There was an immediate home visit where the mum and boyfriend were found to be under the influence of drugs. The police were called and the two children were found with unexplained injuries. Mum and the boyfriend were arrested and the children placed with foster carers.

The child safeguarding practice review has highlighted a number of mistakes made by the authorities in their involvement with the family. It said that not one professional had established mum's immigration status and had assumed it was settled when actually she had no settled status and was not entitled to public funds or housing.

The family was living on child benefit because her Universal Credit had been stopped a year earlier. The report emphasised the need for a robust response to domestic abuse to increase the safety of survivors and their children.

Get all the latest and breaking Bradford news straight to your inbox by signing up to our newsletter here.

"There is a long history of mother being subject to domestic abuse, incidents described as disputes, threats to kill or harassment and being sexually exploited from when she was 14 years to the date of the critical incident, a period of seven years, involving six different men," the report added.

The report said each incident was treated in isolation and no cumulative picture was developed. It said there was evidence across the timeline of neglected care provided to the babies by the mum and possibly other adults and that this became more serious over time. The report's author, Jane Wiffin, made a number of recommendations.

In a statement, Janice Hawkes, Independent Scrutineer of the Bradford Safeguarding Partnership, said: "It is very clear that the mother and children involved in this case did not receive the services they needed. This independent review clearly identifies a number of cultural assumptions that were made and steps that were missed. The author acknowledges that this case had several complicating factors and it occurred at the start of the Covid pandemic, but this should not have resulted in the mistakes that happened.

"As a partnership, we fully take on board the recommendations and learning that the author has laid out in this review. Since this case took place, a considerable amount of work has been put in place by those services who work with children and families to prevent mistakes like this happening again. We will be working with those services to make sure these recommendations are being fully put into practice."

* Names have been changed in the safeguarding report.