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Inquest opens into the death of tragic teen Seren

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Tragic: Seren Bernard

Tragic: Seren Bernard

A MILFORD HAVEN teenager was “willingly exposed to harm by the agencies which were involved in her case” an inquest heard on Monday (Jun 1).

Fourteen-year-old Seren Bernard was found dead near Hakin Point in April 2012.

Now up to twelve witnesses will be called, and ten days have been set aside for this contentious and highly emotional case, which is one of the most complex coroner’s inquests ever to be heard in Pembrokeshire.

Seren’s mother, Sarah Pollock, has argued that Seren should not have been in the care of the local authority.

The inquest at Milford Haven Town Hall, administered by Swansea coroner Paul Bennett, was told that she had suffered with hallucinations and that an imaginary friend had told her to ‘do things’.

Seren Bernard’s mother, Sarah Pollock, who broke down in tears at the inquest, claimed that her daughter had not received the therapy or care that she so badly needed. She told the coroner: “In my view they have willingly and knowingly exposesd Seren to harm.”

But Mr Bennett said at a pre-inquest in December that the scope of the inquest was not about examining “systemic failures” of the council’s care or duplicating what had been investigated by the serious case review.

The inquest has been looking into the events from September 2011, when the teenager went missing for ten days, to when she was found dead seven months later.

The barrister representing Child Adolescent Mental Health Support, which was responsible for Seren’s therapy, said she discussed her imaginary friend Jane with her support worker on two occasions. The inquest heard how during a psychiatric assessment, Seren revealed that she suffered from suicidal thoughts present since childhood.

Seren’s aunt, Tracy Norton said that her niece had displayed strange behaviour including sleeping on the floor and attempting to pierce her lips with a school compass. She told the hearing: “Social services told me that this was normal behaviour for a 14-year-old girl.”

The council’s lawyer said that the Authority had a “difficult balancing act” because Seren did not want to live with her family or have any information to be passed on to them.

A serious case review which took place last year found Seren’s death under the care of Pembrokeshire County Council’s social services department might not have been preventable and Dyfed-Powys Police ruled out a criminal investigation.

Officer had no

cause for concern

On Tuesday, a family intervention officer has said that she had no cause for concern when visiting Seren Bernard in the weeks leading up to her death.

Intervention officer Hannah Jane Thomas gave evidence that she was not a qualified social worker nor was she a mental health specialist.

Hannah had visited Seren on four occasions in March 2012 and described her as in good spirits during these visits despite others saying she was in a low mood.

She added that the way Seren presented herself didn’t give her any cause for concern and that she felt her and Seren had a good relationship.

In between the first two meetings others had noted that her mood had dropped and she had indicated that she wanted to go to the Netherlands to get an injection.

At a meeting on March 21, Hannah had recorded her as in good spirits despite conversations surrounding a friend who had died, spending less time with a boyfriend and having less of an appetite.

Seren had scored her mood at 3 out of 5 on that day and she told Hannah she wasn’t sure how she could improve her mood.

Mr Farmer asked Hannah if she thought Seren might be presenting a false image and she replied: “Seren appeared to be in good spirits, giving me a list of things she was concerned with but I wouldn’t have considered that the foster parents were already concerned with her mood and I wasn’t overly concerned with the way she presented to me.”

The pair met again six days later and Hannah recorded that Seren sounded happier.

On March 29 Hannah visited for what would be the final time and conversation included plans for the weekend and strategies to help her sleep.

Asked how her mood was, Hannah said it was consistent with how she had found her on other occasions.

Hannah added that she never recalled Seren presenting as tearful saying she was always happy.

She was also asked how much time she would spend with Seren and she agreed that she would have spent between 4-6 hours with her.

On March 21, Hannah had recorded that Seren took a long time to come down the stairs when she came to collect her and her foster parents had expressed their worries about Seren about that time and that she had been crying a lot.

She was asked if the things her foster parents had said would be on her mind when talking with her.

Hannah said that even though they were discussing those issues Seren appeared to be in good spirits and that she wasn’t given any cause for concern.

Asked if she saw her work with Seren as positive, Hannah replied: “I’d like to think so.”

Social worker had no

idea about suicide letters

On Wednesday a social worker said she was unaware of previous attempts that Seren Bernard had made to kill herself.

Wendy Rodrigues told the inquest that she knew of at least one attempt where Seren had tried to take her own life but was unaware of other attempts.

When asked if she was aware that Seren had been having frequent thoughts suicide and that she was regularly writing suicide letters, Wendy replied that she had no knowledge of this.

It was these attempts that led to Seren being placed on the Child Protection register and her involvement with the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths group (CANS).

Wendy was also required to carry out a core assessment but she told the inquest that she had started but not finished it. It was pointed out to her that she had a duty to promote Seren’s welfare and when asked, Wendy couldn’t recall why it hadn’t been completed.

She was also asked about various core group meetings and on one occasion where there was no update from CANS.

The inquest heard how CANS had not attended a meeting and the barrister questioned how the core groups could receive a proper update on Seren’s condition without the input of CANS.

It was also argued that Seren’s foster parents should have been at these meetings.

Seren had been to seven sessions with CANS and these were described as going well.

However, Seren had been deteriorating in those sessions and on December 20, CANS told her that they were willing to discharge her.

The family’s barrister added that it wasn’t acceptable for a young girl who had made at least one suicide attempt, suffering from depression and had been placed on the child protection register to be taken out of the CANS sessions.

The inquest continues.

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News

Tragedy above Milford Haven takeaway

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DYFED POWYS POLICE has confirmed that a 20-year-old male passed away in Milford Haven last Saturday, April 17.

Police were called to the USA Fried Chicken store on Charles Street at around 1:30pm but have said there are no suspicious circumstances.

A Herald reporter was at the scene and witnessed a number of police cars and an ambulance while plain-clothed officers were also seen.

HM Coroner has been informed.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson added: “We were called to Charles Street in Milford Haven on Saturday 17 April at approximately 1.34pm to reports of a medical emergency. We attended the scene with one emergency ambulance where we assisted colleagues from the police.”

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Health

Tavernspite School the ‘healthiest of schools despite the pandemic’

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THE STAFF, governors, parents, and of course, the children of Tavernspite Community Primary School are delighted to gain the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes National Quality Award for an incredible 5th time after a recent and very rigorous assessment.

The school is already well known and highly regarded for its outstanding work in developing the health and wellbeing of all members of its school community. To achieve this prestigious recognition in the midst of a pandemic is all the more impressive. 

Health and Wellbeing at the school is led by teacher, Lauren Arthur, who has done an incredible job preparing for this re-assessment and raising the profile of the Healthy Schools scheme.

The assessor Mrs Lynne Perry, enjoyed a virtual tour and presentation by Year 3 pupils who took great pleasure in proudly showing Mrs Perry all the wonderful work the school has done to ensure its children are safe, happy with high levels of emotional and physical wellbeing.

In her report, Mrs Perry wrote, ‘Tavernspite School continues to be an outstanding health promoting school. The health promoting school ethos is evident across the whole school population and it runs seamlessly throughout everything that the school does. Tavernspite School continues to give high priority to promoting and enhancing the health and well-being of the whole school community.’

The school received fantastic support from Mrs Liz Western, Senior Public Health Officer and Lead for Healthy Schools and Pre-schools, Pembrokeshire, to whom they are very grateful.

Head teacher Kevin Phelps said, ‘We were delighted to receive this award for the fifth time, particularly considering the experiences we have all been through these past twelve months. Health and wellbeing has never been so important and we are proud to be leading the way like this.’

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News

Joinery learner through to Screwfix Trade Apprentice of the Year Finals

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PEMBROKESHIRE COLLEGE joinery learner, Conor Ratcliff has made it through to the final ten in this year’s Screwfix Trade Apprentice of the Year competition.

Now in its seventh year, the competition celebrates the next generation of tradespeople as they start out on their career. With over 2,500 nominations, Conor was shortlisted to the top 30 where he had to deliver a video presentation to industry-leading judges and trade body representatives. Judged on professionalism, creativity, innovation, enthusiasm and knowledge of their trade, Conor impressed the judges and is now in the final 10.  

Simon Jackson, Screwfix Customer and Digital director, commented: “Every year we are amazed by the outstanding quality of entrants and, this year, we are on the lookout for apprentices who go above and beyond to succeed within their chosen trade.

“We’ve seen how this career-boosting accolade and £10,000 prize bundle helps kickstart an apprentice’s career. I’d like to wish everyone through to this stage the best of luck!”

The prize package includes everything a future tradesperson may need to start up their own business including £5,000 of tools, a £3,000 training budget and £2,000 worth of technology. The college where they study will also receive £2,000.

Conor is thrilled to have made it through to the finals and commented: “I am extremely honoured to have made it this far in the competition and I am very excited for the final event. It would be an amazing opportunity for me, if I won this competition.

“I hope it encourages more people to consider an apprenticeship in a trade, the Carpentry and Joinery department have been incredibly supportive during my studies.”

The Final is due to take place imminently where the judges will conduct an online interview with the ten finalists before selecting and announcing their overall winner.

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