Middle Class Parents 'Cowed Social Workers' before Mum Smothered Her Sick Children

Daily Mail (London), November 24, 2015 | Go to article overview

Middle Class Parents 'Cowed Social Workers' before Mum Smothered Her Sick Children


Byline: David Wilkes

SOCIAL workers cowed by assertive middle class parents failed to intervene before the mother killed their three disabled children, an official report found yesterday.

Banker's wife Tania Clarence suffocated Olivia, four, and threeyear-old twins Ben and Max after becoming 'overwhelmed' by the challenge of caring for them.

Social workers could have stepped in a year before she smothered them in their beds at the PS1.4million home in New Malden, South West London, the serious case review found.

But they held back from providing appropriate care partly because of the South African couple's 'affluent, middle class status' and assertive attitude, it said. This was significant because Mrs Clarence and her husband Gary's class and self-assurance 'posed challenge to professionals, some of whom would not be used to this level of questioning'.

'This was particularly the case in dealings with the father who, as ... a company director, was experienced and powerful,' it said. 'There has been consideration whether the family's social status led to a different safeguarding response. There is no evidence this occurred, but it may have contributed to the cautious approach in moving into the child protection processes.' Mr Clarence has blamed NHS staff and social workers for 'unbearable pressure' that helped tip his depressed 44-year-old wife over the edge.

He said the couple had wished that the three children's quality of life should be a priority and had been unwilling to agree to operations for the youngsters, who all had type 2 spinal muscular atrophy and were not expected to survive beyond early adulthood. The degenerative muscle-wasting condition, sometimes referred to as 'floppy baby' syndrome, left them unable to stand or walk unaided.

The report said the couple's South African background, which meant they were used to selecting services rather than being advised what they should do, also had a significant impact on how doctors and social services handled the 'extremely unusual and challenging' case. …

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