Two malnourished teenagers who were never allowed to attend school phoned the NSPCC themselves to report their parents after a string of missed opportunities for authorities to intervene, a damning report reveals today.

The siblings, a 14-year-old boy and his 16-year-old sister, raised the alarm with a call to the childrens’ charity in June last year, claiming they could not read or write and were “made to hide” when visitors came to their home in Waltham Forest, east London.

The boy told the charity’s call handler there were “secrets in the family”, and added that they “were confined to the house and allowed out to the park only outside school hours”.

The teenagers were “pale and with their appearance suggestive of being malnourished” when found by police, who had been notified by the NSPCC, the report says.

An independent serious case review found a dozen missed opportunities where social services could have stepped in sooner.

It has emerged the parents had an older child, who is now 26, taken into care in 2001 due to allegations of neglect, and the mother – who has health problems – had suggested to doctors that her partner was “coercive and controlling”.

But despite the two younger children missing multiple medical appointments as babies and never enrolling in school, the report says social services did not seriously consider them “at risk”.

David Peplow, chair of Waltham Forest council’s Safeguarding Children Board, today said the case had “highlighted issues of national concern” and “areas where improvements can be made”.

The investigation revealed the parents, who cannot be named, never applied to the council to home-school their children, and the boy could not recall ever having a check-up with a doctor or dentist.

His sister, who was born with a heart disorder, missed multiple check-ups as a baby, and after complaining of dizziness and “near blackouts” to a GP in 2016 she was not taken to hospital until two years later.

The hospital doctor attempted to raise concerns about the teenager’s welfare with the council’s safeguarding team, but the referral was never completed after “a discussion with a social worker”, the report found.

Police had also been called out twice to the family home, including in February 2008 when the boy, then aged four, was found walking the streets alone wearing only a t-shirt and nappy.

After he was returned to his parents “there is no record of the police requesting to see the other children in the household or liaison with other agencies”, according to the report.

Police officers were again called to the house in April 2017, and reported a “strange and odd” situation where the mother and two children were locked inside the home and were only let out when the father returned.

But once again, concerns about the welfare of the children were not followed up by social services.

The Met Police has now launched a criminal investigation into suspected child cruelty, and said it is “working with our partners to identify and act on any organisational learning” from the case review.

The report said it remains unknown what prompted the teenagers to call the NSPCC, but officers noticed the girl was “anxious that father would be listening in on the conversation with the police”.

It adds that the “children were guarded in their responses due to their anxiety”, and were said to be “happy” to leave the family home and are now “thriving” in foster care.

The report, by Korkor Ceasar and Darren McAughtrie, made four recommendations, to prevent children becoming “hidden” or lost within the system. Children’s services in Waltham Forest were rated as good during the last Ofsted inspection in March.

A spokesman for Waltham Forest Council said “significant improvements had been made with systems and information sharing”, since the case came to light.

Mr Peplow added that the council and social services had “an absolute commitment to delivering the best possible care and support and is focused on continuous improvement and learning”.

An NSPCC spokeswoman said: “The serious case review makes clear there were missed opportunities to support this family and its recommendations must be implemented to minimise the risk of this happening again.

“We all have a duty to look out for the welfare of children. Last year the NSPCC helpline was contacted on average 55 times a day by adults worried about child neglect.”

The  NSPCC’s helpline is free and can be called in confidence on 0808 800 5000.