Council social services bosses have been criticised by a family court judge who questioned whether guidelines were followed in a case involving a mother of three who has learning disabilities.
Judge Thomas Greensmith has suggested that the lives of the woman's children would have been different if staff at Wirral Borough Council had followed recommendations contained in guidelines for local authorities working with parents who have learning disabilities.
He suggested that staff had been too slow to spot the woman's learning disabilities, referred to one "tragically missed opportunity", and said bosses should reflect.
The judge has raised concern in a written ruling on the case following a private family court hearing in Liverpool.
He had been asked to make decisions about the futures of the children, who are aged between two and nine, and concluded that the "only option" was for them to leave home and go into foster care.
The judge said the youngsters had experienced a "very difficult upbringing" in the care of their mother.
He said they had been cared for in a way which had not met their welfare needs.
Judge Greensmith said guidance for councils working with parents who have learning disabilities had been produced, by staff at Government health and education departments, in 2007 and revised in 2016.
"I have serious reservations as to whether the guidelines have been followed in this case," said the judge.
"The local authority first became involved with the mother in April 2009.
"There were frequent encounters.
"In my judgment the problems the mother was encountering should have alerted the local authority to her condition."
He added: "The local authority should, in my view, reflect on how different these boys' early years would have been if the mother's disability had been recognised earlier and the recommendations contained in the guidelines had been followed."
Judge Greensmith said the family involved could not be identified.
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