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A heartbroken family are desperately seeking answers after trusting that social services and the police would keep their vulnerable daughter safe from harm.
Tragically, Caitlin Sharp (17), who was severely epileptic, was found unconscious at the home of a man who was on police bail with a condition not to contact her. She was pronounced dead in hospital in June 2019.
At the time of Caitlin’s death, she was in the care of Worcestershire Social Services. A highly critical report into her death by a child safeguarding practice review said she had not taken her epilepsy medication for five months and that agencies hadn’t recognised her inability to care for herself or the risks of sexual exploitation from men.
Caitlin had suffered from severe epilepsy since birth. Her seizures affected her brain and mental health and professionals were concerned about her mental capacity. At 15, her parents took the incredibly difficult decision to put her into care when her disruptive behaviour put her younger brothers at risk.
Caitlin’s mother, Michelle Doe was not kept properly informed about her daughter’s welfare, despite having shared care. She said:
“I trusted them to look after her. I put my little girl in their hands, and it wasn’t just about her dying, but it’s about what she went through that I find hard to deal with.”
Caitlin was moved to a flat in Kidderminster to live independently – away from her family in Malvern. Her family, and her epilepsy nurse, did not believe she was capable of living on her own.
While living away from home, Caitlin was assaulted and said she did not feel safe and hated living independently. On one occasion, she absconded, but the police took her back to the flat. In March 2019, she declared herself homeless as a cry for help. Poignantly, the report into the events leading to her death said her voice could not have been stronger at this point.
Tragically, months later, Caitlin was declared brain dead in hospital after being found in a man’s house following a severe epileptic fit. Her family took the difficult decision to switch off her life support and donate her organs to save others.
Specialist lawyer Mary Smith from Novum Law, who is supporting Caitlin’s family, said:
“As the report makes clear, Caitlin was not able to look after herself. There was overwhelming evidence prior to her death that she was at significant risk of harm.
“Caitlin’s family placed their trust in social services and the police. They believed she would be looked after and kept safe from harm. The fact they were kept in the dark about so many of the events and incidents covered by the report is shameful. It came as a huge shock to them to read the full extent of the safeguarding failings and the ordeal that Caitlin went through before her death.
“We will now support Caitlin’s family to obtain the remaining answers they need and to seek redress. Importantly, we will also support them to ensure that Caitlin’s story is used as a catalyst for change, so that what happened to Caitlin does not happen to another child.”