JENNY Molloy was just nine years old when she asked the police to take her and her two brothers into care.

Now a successful author and tireless supporter of children’s rights, Jenny delivered the key note address about neglect and its impact at the Redcar & Cleveland Safeguarding Children Board’s conference on Tuesday (9 May).

Held in the Redcar & Cleveland Leisure & Community Heart, Jenny told her story to the invited group of care professionals from the council and partner agencies.

Jenny said: “I was nine when I took my brothers to the police station and asked to be put in care. Neglect was every day in our home. It showed in so many ways. We smelled bad. Food didn’t enter into my parents’ lives. I never saw them have a meal. I was a scavenger. I learned which shops I could steal from and how to find rhubarb in the cemetery. That was like finding gold.”

Raised by alcoholic parents in Hackney, London, Jenny experienced first-hand the effects of neglect. Culminating in a terrifying vigilante attack by an angry mob after her mother was imprisoned for soliciting, Jenny took it upon herself to get help.

“When I read my files years later, I found out the police and social workers knew what was going on. They knew my mother was working as a sex worker from our home. They knew there was no food. They knew my parents were drunk.  Why did they leave us there?”

Jenny’s story, one of eventual rescue and support from the pain of her childhood, illustrated the true impact of neglect. She said: “I was 32 before I opened up about being in care. I hadn’t told anyone, not my husband or children. When you’re in care you feel like you can’t ever be a parent yourself but the love I received in care, which was missing from home, did teach me how to be a parent.

“If the ultimate failure of care is that the children of those who have been in care also end up in care, then the ultimate success must be being able to raise a family without them being taken into care. You [the care professionals] can give us that hope.”

Now a grandmother and a government advisor on the care of children, Jenny has published the books Hackney Child and Tainted Love (under her pen name Hope Daniels) about her experiences.  Her latest book Neglected, written under her real name, shares stories of love and hope within the care system, a message Jenny is passionate about.

The conference was opened by Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council Chief Executive Amanda Skelton.

Amanda said: “Every time there is a Serious Case Review one of the recommendations is always for agencies to work closer together. That’s why we held this conference.

“Neglect is such an important issue that we need to be constantly vigilant.  We’re committed to working together to prevent neglect. We do not accept this is a perennial, unsolvable problem. We had some excellent speakers share their experience and expertise to help us with this important challenge.”

The Conference, which launched Redcar and Cleveland Safeguarding Children Board’s Neglect Strategy, provided an opportunity to consider how agencies identify and respond to neglect, highlighting the positive effects that practitioners can have upon the outcomes for children and young people in both the short and long term.

Jon Rush, Independent Chair for RCSCB, said: “The launch of the Neglect Strategy reinforces the shared commitment of all partner agencies to re-focus efforts to better identify children and young people experiencing neglect and to more effectively join up the support that can be offered to families.”

Other speakers at the conference included:

  • Her Honour Judge Matthews QC discussing the Judicial Perspective of neglect.
  • Dr Catherine Hiley, Consultant Community Paediatrician, highlighting the potential short and long term medical effects of neglect upon children and young people.
  • Rachel Carter from South Tees NHS Foundation Trust discussing the change in language both locally and nationally in respect of missed medical appointments for children and young people, moving away from the term ‘Did Not Attend’ (DNA) to ‘Child Not Brought, in recognition of the potential detrimental effects of such missed appointments on a child’s health.

To find out more about the Redcar & Cleveland Safeguarding Children Board, visit: https://www.redcar-cleveland.gov.uk/safeguarding

Anyone with concerns about the wellbeing of a child in Redcar and Cleveland can call 01642 771500 or 08702 402994 (out of hours).