Shannon Matthews - A travesty that shocked the world, but families like hers are all too common, report finds (VIDEO)

SOCIAL workers had twice considered taking siblings of Dewsbury schoolgirl Shannon Matthews into care - but her abduction by her mother could not have been foreseen, a serious case review concluded today.

The Shannon Matthews case: Full coverage

The Kirkless Safeguarding Children Board review found there was "little leeway" for social services and other agencies to intervene before Shannon, then aged nine, was abducted from her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, by family members in February 2008.

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But the report said social services should have agreed a request by Shannon's mother Karen for one of her children to be taken into care.

Karen Matthews - now in jail - refused to take part in the review, which Kirklees Council said it would now be doing its "utmost" to publish the report in full after the release of today's executive summary.

According to the report, Shannon was put on the child protection register with another sibling in 2002 for a number of reasons, including her mother's failure to prioritise "their need for a consistent and secure parental relationship over her own need for relationships with a number of male partners".

It said the reasons for the move related to Matthews's "failure to ensure safe and adequate parenting", particularly with regard to a number of factors.

These included "protecting them from contact with individuals who posed a risk of physical and/or sexual abuse", ensuring they go to school and providing a comfortable home environment.

The report also said it failed to find an explanation for how or why Shannon ingested prescription-only drugs prior to her abduction.

At a press conference, when asked where she would put Matthews in the "pantheon of motherhood", report author Dr Carole Smith said: "We would see this kind of parenting Karen provided fairly commonly."

She added: "We are looking at a fairly common problem."

The panel was asked if social workers failed Shannon.

Ms O'Sullivan said: "I think the findings of the serious case review don't reveal serious failings across the system - either council services or those of other agencies. There are lessons to be learned, there are improvements to be made."

Earlier, review chair Bron Sanders said the review did not find any systemic failings but added: "There are plenty of things which could have been better."

The panel was also asked about a senior detective's quote at the time of Matthews' conviction, referring to her as "pure evil".

Dr Smith said: "I think we have to distinguish between the act and the person.

"What she did was unprecedented and horrendous. How she behaved as a mother over nearly 13 years was a different matter.

"I think it's perhaps an emotional and understandable response to say she was pure evil but not borne out by the facts over a period of time."

Earlier, Dr Smith said Matthews was "attached to her children and her children were attached to her".

She said: "There was a bond of affection between them."

Dr Smith said Matthews had difficulty translating her affection into good, practical parenting.

Sheila Dilks, from NHS Kirkless, said: "There won't be a person involved with this family that hasn't had many a sleepless night."

In a statement, Alison O'Sullivan, chair of the board and director for children and young people at Kirklees Council, said: "The trigger for the serious case review - the abduction of the mother's third child, Shannon - was, to quote directly, an 'unusual, unexpected and challenging event'.

"This is made crystal clear and the board is in full agreement - this was an unprecedented case and it was not possible to foresee that Shannon would fall prey to abduction by people closest to her.

"We are very firm in that belief, though we accept there are areas of criticism in the report and we agree with them."

The report calls Shannon's mother Karen Matthews clueless and says she misled the world about her daughter's disappearance.

Ms O'Sullivan added: "We must equally stress that the threshold for taking any of the children into care - for removing them from their mother - was not reached. The serious case review confirms this fact."

Shannon, now 11, disappeared from her home in Dewsbury Moor, West Yorkshire, in February 2008.

After a massive police operation, she was discovered 24 days later at her stepfather's uncle's home, less than a mile away.

Last year Karen Matthews, then 33, was jailed for eight years for her part in what a judge described as a "truly despicable" plot with Michael Donovan, in whose flat the youngster was found.

Donovan, then 40, was also jailed for eight years.

Shannon was found in Donovan's flat in Lidgate Gardens, Batley Carr, West Yorkshire, in the base of a bed.

The youngster had been drugged and forced to adhere to a strict list of rules while held captive.

Prosecutors said Donovan kept Shannon imprisoned as part of a plan he and Matthews hatched to claim a 50,000 reward offered by a national newspaper.

The court was told the ordeal left Shannon "disturbed and traumatised" and suffering from nightmares.

Kirklees Council announced a serious case review after Matthews and Donovan were convicted in December 2008.

Last week ministers confirmed that full reports of serious case reviews into the most notorious cases of child abuse are to be published, including the one relating to Shannon.

Today, Ms O'Sullivan said the board had received a letter in the last few days confirming the Secretary of State wanted the full report to be published.

She said it has been normal practice to publish only executive summaries of serious case reviews.

She added: "But in our spirit of openness and accountability, we will be doing our utmost to publish in full.

"There are many legal issues to consider and we must also balance the needs of the children, whose welfare always comes first."

The review concluded that the family's history was characterised by "neglectful parenting interspersed with periods of adequate parental care".

It said professionals intervened when inadequate parenting had affected the wellbeing of the five children involved in the review over a 13-year period but the impact of the neglect was unlikely to have met the criteria for care orders to be imposed.

The report stated: "The overview panel concluded that the third-born child's abduction could not have been foreseen by professionals involved in this case on the basis of their historical and current knowledge about the family."

It continued: "This family's history has largely been characterised by neglectful parenting interspersed with periods of adequate parental care.

"There have been episodes when inadequate parenting has affected the social, emotional and developmental wellbeing of the children and under these circumstances professionals have intervened to safeguard the children and to support family stability through service provision.

"In the context of this history, there was little leeway for professionals to have pursued alternative interventions prior to the third child's abduction."

The review said the case demonstrated the difficulty of responding effectively to families where parenting was characterised by low-level neglect.

It concluded: "In the overview panel's view, this is a matter which raises issues regarding national policy implementation as well as local action in relation to neglectful parents whose willingness/ability to improve their parenting is compromised by their own family history, low aspirations, relative poverty and a lack of social and economic opportunities."

The review confirmed that Shannon was placed on the child protection register in 2002 but was removed in late 2003.