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Answers wanted over child’s death

Stagecoach pupils: During a performance.

answers wantedON FRIDAY, March 14, friends and supporters gathered at County Hall, Haverfordwest to call for ‘truth and transparency’ regarding the circumstances leading to the teenager’s death.

Fourteen-year-old Seren Bernard’s body was found in Milford Haven in 2012.

Sarah Pollock, from Haverfordwest, has complained to an ombudsman, claiming her concerns and views were ignored.

She said: ““My daughter wasn’t a statistic, she wasn’t a number, and she wasn’t a wage for foster carers. My daughter was a human being with rights. That’s what I’m standing up for today.”

A report published in January about Seren’s death has been strongly criticised by Sarah. The report said it would remain uncertain whether or not the death could have been prevented had any steps been taken.

In a statement responding to the demonstration, officials from Pembrokeshire County Council said that they appreciated “the deep emotion of Mrs Pollock as a bereaved parent. The independent reports that have been completed by external experts into the tragic loss of her daughter have concluded that it would remain uncertain as to whether there were any steps that, if taken, could have prevented her death.”

“At present the matter is still before HM Coroner and it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

Mother of Seren Bernard demands the truth

THE MOTHER of tragic teenage suicide victim, Seren Bernard, has fronted a protest requesting answers over the death of her 14-year-old daughter, whilst under the care of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Social Services department.

Sarah Pollock told The Herald about what she sees as the County Council’s many failures that led to the death of Seren: holding them responsible. Sarah also believes she has been unfairly treated by all agencies concerned.

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“I am fighting my case against the whole overview report that they have sanctioned and locked down in the Safeguarding Board of Pembrokeshire. I have a lot of questions to ask of the County Council.

“They say their reviews have been independent and impartial; I dispute this”.

She said of the Executive Summary,

“Their documentation is inaccurate, personal and not professional, and certainly not impartial. The basis of the information provided to other agencies was biased, inaccurate and incorrect”.

Regarding the Executive Summary experience, attended by Sarah Pollock, she said,

“Mr Relf (head of child care) and Mr Brown (safeguarding board) told me I had time to consider the paper before going over it.

“I asked if I could have a private room, so they left the room. I read the first page and they came back in the room asking if I’d finished. After just two minutes he (Mr Brown) demanded to know how long I was going to be. I addressed them with many questions, especially about the care she was receiving. I told them that my mother did not have the capacity to take care of Seren, which they documented as being spiteful, aggressive and unpredictable.

“In that Executive Summary there was no mention of these things I was doing or saying to get my daughter help.

“Seren used the family dynamics to hide behind rather than seek outside help. I went to the school asking them to provide counselling which they failed to document. After various incidents in her school, the then Head told her they’d be phoning me, to which she objected, so they dismissed me totally, calling Social Services. “Social Services were not monitoring her situation closely enough. All I wanted was my daughter to have counselling and be under my care where I could direct her life in a positive way”.

Sarah Pollock continued by asking whether the then foster carers of Seren have been suspended from their position of foster care during this enquiry, citing an incident she believes highlighted their lack of competence in looking after her daughter.

“A child died in their care. The care they gave to my daughter was inappropriate and they subjected her to harm, by overriding my parental rights”.

She supported this claim by alleging that despite her protestations Seren’s foster parents allowed her to go on a night out in Minnie’s, which she considered totally inappropriate. Sarah explained this resulted in Seren being taken to hospital by ambulance, this occurring just six weeks before her death. Regarding her ability to care for her daughter, she continued,

“How can my daughter have stopped her own counselling when she had been hearing voices, self-harming and absconding?

“They (Social Services) even wanted me to take her back after I had had no contact with her for four months. How were we going to help her out if she didn’t sort out her issues? Every time I questioned any of their decisions I was deemed aggressive, unpredictable and confrontational. All I wanted was the best for my daughter”.

Emphasising her competence as a parent, she cited the academic achievements of her son. She accused the various agencies of denying family members the opportunity for any input into Seren’s welfare once she was in foster care, which she said was on a voluntary care order.

“They empowered my daughter to self-destruct. They have destroyed our family’s lives.”