Council failed to carry out ‘basic core social work’ in adoption case, judge
Social services bosses have been criticised by a High Court judge over the way they handled the case of two children who have been placed for adoption.
Mrs Justice Theis said staff at Greenwich Council in London failed to carry out “basic core social work” and failed to make “basic inquiries” about the possibility of the children being cared for by a member of their wider family.
The judge said staff had also accidentally revealed detail of the people earmarked as adopters.
She said that “serious and significant data breach” had led to those prospective adopters having to move home.
The judge has outlined criticisms in a written ruling published following a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London in 2018.
Mrs Justice Theis has named the local authority involved as the Royal Borough of Greenwich but said the children at the centre of the case could not be identified.
She said the children’s parents could not care for them.
A family court judge had approved a plan for adoption in late 2016 and the children had been placed with prospective adopters in spring 2017.
But Mrs Justice Theis said council staff had not “properly assessed” an aunt who was willing to care for them.
The judge has approved adoption, after reviewing evidence, and concluded that the children should stay where they have been for nearly two years.
She said moving the children to their aunt’s home now would disrupt them and cause harm.
But the judge said “one of the tragedies” of the case was that the children would in all likelihood have been able to live with their aunt had she been properly assessed before they were placed with prospective adopters.
“I am critical of the conduct of this local authority,” Mrs Justice Theis said in her ruling.
“I, of course, accept that they operate under considerable pressure; however, I am satisfied in this case basic core social work was not carried out by the allocated social worker.”
The judge said there had been a “failure to make basic inquiries about the possibility of placement in the wider family” and a “failure of effective supervision of the allocated social worker”.
She added: “What this case has highlighted is the critical importance of a local authority having effective systems in place from an early stage in care proceedings to ensure that the wider maternal/paternal families are considered as possible placement options.”
Mrs Justice Theis said the “data breach” had occurred when council staff accidentally sent legal documents containing identifying detail of the “adoptive placement” to the aunt who was being considered as a possible carer.
Mrs Justice Theis said that, “to her very great credit”, the aunt had immediately alerted everyone involved to what had happened.
The judge said the children were living with the prospective adopters when the “data breach” occurred.
She added: “… this serious data breach by the local authority meant the prospective adopters and the children had to move home at very short notice, have not been able to return to their property, and have had to take significant steps to secure theirs and the children’s identity”.
Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Kate Collins / PA Wire.