It has been confirmed by Tower Hamlets Council that part of the overall three-year delay in publishing the Serious Case Review (SCR) into the death of Rifat Miah was a year-long delay caused a dispute as to how the report’s writers would be taxed in addition to the availability of the report writers and reviewers.
LW’s analysis of meeting minutes published by the Local Children’s Safeguarding Board (LSCB) led us to believe that part of the three-year delay in publishing the SCR of how Tower Hamlets Children’s Services was due to a tax dispute.
Council statements unclear
Publication of the SCR the next day confirmed our suspicions that a lengthy dispute about the IR35 status of the report’s authors was responsible for a six-month delay.
IR35 is tax legislation that is designed to combat tax avoidance by workers supplying their services to clients via an intermediary, such as a limited company. IR35 disputes are quite common.
The precise wording of the statements initially published by Tower Hamlets Council was still not, in our opinion, as clear as they could be.
The purpose of an SCR is to clearly explain circumstances surrounding serious child abuse and the specifics of a year-long delay in publishing an SCR contributing to an overall three-year is part of those circumstances.
Two reasons for delay or just one reason?
Was the six-month delay sorting out the IR35 status the same delay as other delays related to ensuring the Council had secured the right independent reviewers in its previous statements or a different delay? And if these were two different delays did they run in parallel or did they happen consecutively?
So LW asked again and got an answer which seems to be clear – but was not clear from the phrasing of the SCR.
Two delays, not just one
A Tower Hamlets spokesperson said:
“Yes, one delay factor was that clarity was required on whether the three independent consultants were defined for tax purposes as operating inside or outside of the IR35 tax legislation. This issue took six months to resolve.
Another delay related to ensuring we secured the right independent reviewers – namely their availability to start the reviews.”
LW is submitting Freedom of Information requests to get all the facts in this matter.
SCRs to be completed within 4-6 months
The Government’s ‘Working Together’ 2015 guidance recommends that SCRs should be completed within four to six months unless they are complex cases.
Our view is that there are two issues that have scrutinised in this case. One is the reasons for the death of Rifat Miah while he and his family were known to Tower Hamlets Children’s Services. The second is the precise details of all the facts contributing to the three-year delay in the SCR publication.
A year’s delay caused by obtaining suitable report writers and reviewers and then a squabble over their tax status means a year when those responsible for his welfare could not be called to account, lessons properly learnt and the safeguarding of our children improved.