SOCIAL workers are without a doubt between a rock and a hard place. If they act too soon in suspected cases of child abuse they are often accused of being too heavy-handed. But if they do nothing the cry goes up that someone should have stepped in sooner.

The serious case review commissioned in the light of a couple jailed in June for the wilful neglect of five children has come to the conclusion this week that more should have been done to protect these youngsters who suffered appalling neglect. Well, yes, obviously. It is a bit door, horse, bolted really.

Every time one of these awful cases comes to light it is then followed by hand-wringing and a lot of stating the obvious.

These children suffered terribly at the hands of their parents between 2007 and 2012.

They lived in a filthy, stinking house and during that period there were many reports from teachers, social workers and health professionals flagging up problems including malnutrition, lice and flea infestation.

It was only when one of the younger children was admitted to hospital that the scale of neglect came to the surface.

The parents had been smart enough to appear compliant with all the agencies involved with this family, drip-feeding each of them snippets of information.

But no system was in place to gather all that information together and send alarm bells ringing throughout the county.

It is unrealistic to expect any one person to spot all the signs.

Let us hope lessons have been learned and measures are put in place so that it does not happen again.

Sitting around after the event talking about what should have happened is no use now to those children who suffered.