Oldham paper forces council U-turn

The Oldham Chronicle successfully challenged a council decision,
allowing it to publish details of an inquiry into how a child was
injured while on the local “at risk” register.

The inquiry took
place after a boy, who was under the supervision of the Area Child
Protection Committee because of abuse and neglect, was taken to
hospital with serious injury. Legal action ensued to remove the boy
from his family.

This inquiry was a part eight review, which
followed the advice in section 8 of the Working Together to Safeguard
Children document (1999) set out by the Government.

Deputy news
editor Janice Barker noticed that the outcome of the inquiry had been
assessed privately by members of Oldham Council, but no details were
given despite guidance from three Government departments, including the
Home Office, that states such a summary should be made in public.

When Barker challenged the decision she was still given no information.

She then sought legal advice and warned the council it was in the wrong.

The
following day the paper was leaked a copy of the inquiry, which it used
as the basis of a story. The council threatened to take out an
injunction to prevent publication, but further talks led to a change of
mind by the authority, which agreed to add its own comments.

Barker
said: “Social workers and other agencies were doing a difficult job
with a dysfunctional family, but the point of the inquiry and my
article was to highlight what went wrong and how working practices
could be changed in the future.

“Journalists should keep pushing
at issues like this especially where freedom of information is being
denied despite three Government departments’ advice.”

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