£10k payout to Hull teen Kelly Clarkson, branded 'attention seeker' by social worker
AN ALLEGED child abuse victim has been awarded £10,000 compensation after a social worker dismissed her as an "attention seeker".
The discretionary payout to Kelly Clarkson, 19, is believed to be the largest of its kind made by Hull City Council.
The payment was made after an independent investigation revealed a "systematic breakdown of child protection procedures" in the case.
The investigation found social workers had caused Mrs Clarkson unnecessary trauma by their attitude towards her.
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As well as the payment, the council also sent her a written apology.
Failures included "a woeful catalogue of errors and procedural shortcomings" with one social worker even dismissing the teenager as an "attention seeker".
Mrs Clarkson, who agreed to waive her right of anonymity as a victim of alleged sex abuse, told the Mail in an exclusive interview: "I just wanted some justice for the way I was treated by social services.
"Four years of my life have been ruined.
"It was never about money, it was about making sure other people in the future don't have to go through what I did.
"I've accepted the apology but people can say sorry half the time and never really mean it."
Mrs Clarkson was just 14 when she says she started being regularly sexually abused by a man.
In late 2007, she made her first official statement about the alleged abuse after speaking to staff at a school where she was a pupil.
The school contacted social services, who were aware of Mrs Clarkson after she had made an earlier allegation about being physically abused by another adult.
However, nothing was done by social workers to look into her sexual abuse claims or restrict the man's access to her until he was arrested ten months later, even though she gave a further statement to the police.
The independent investigation found relevant case assessments were either not completed or not carried out at all by social workers.
The man, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was subsequently released without charge because of insufficient evidence.
Independent investigating officer Don Phillips upheld all six formal complaints made by Mrs Clarkson over the way social services had handled her case.
He said: "It is regrettable, even remarkable, that the signed disclosure made at school in November 2007 did not reach the hands of somebody to properly investigate it until the commencement of my investigation into this complaint in July 2011."
He said there had been "successive failings" by a number of individual social workers.
He said: "Poor recording, poor professional analysis, judgement and lack of adherence to procedures all contributed to an inappropriate record of 'no further action'.
"It has been acknowledged that Kelly did not receive the necessary support and aftercare."
In his report, he said: "Kelly has suffered injustice – she was not believed and response was only limited.
"Kelly has been caused considerable distress having had to spend a few years as a teenager under the misapprehension that as an individual she was not worth believing.
"The Children's and Young Peoples' Services' failure to respond appropriately must have considerably contributed to her sense of vulnerability."
Mr Phillips said describing the teenager as an attention seeker had been "unfortunate" and an "admission of professional defeat" by the social worker concerned.
In his recommendations, he said: "The relevant staff need to be reminded through training that flippant labels such as "attention seeker" are against the fundamental principles of social work training.
"The label seems to have blighted Kelly throughout."
In a statement, John Plant, head of localities and safeguarding for Hull City Council, said: "The alleged abuse had taken place prior to the involvement of our social care team. Although subsequently investigated jointly with the police, no charges were ever brought.
"However, the complaint was upheld on the basis that subsequent action and assessments could and should have been more thorough.
"In addition to upholding the complaint, a discretionary payment was also made.
"This is unusual but was in acknowledgement of the complainant's difficult experience."
He said "significant changes" have been implemented since 2008 to create a centralised service for the investigation of all allegations, together with a more comprehensive assessment.