Social WorkTo Keep Tabs On Released Sex Offenders

Most councils are not meeting minimum standards on supervising violent criminals, according to a report by inspectors. Home visits are insufficient, supervision is failing to address offending behaviour and risk assessments are inadequate, according to the results of a nationwide review by the Social Work Inspection Agency (SWIA). Earlier this month The Scotsman revealed that emergency orders had been placed on more than 60 high-risk sex offenders to control their movements, amid growing police frustration at the numbers being released from jail with few restrictions.

SWIA inspectors acknowledged the situation was improving but the reports, compiled over two years, still make for bleak reading. In the Forth Valley grouping of councils, which includes Edinburgh, a study of 13 random case files found that in nearly half the cases supervision did not focus on offending behaviour.

In eight of 12 cases, social workers failed to deliver the minimum standard of two home visits in the first 12 weeks after an offender was released.

In councils in the north of Scotland, the vast majority of social inquiry reports – which guide sheriffs and judges when passing sentence – were either “poor” or just “adequate”.

In Dumfries and Galloway, three out of six social inquiry reports for violent offenders were poor, “particularly in their analysis of offending”.

But some of the biggest failings were in North and South Lanarkshire, where most reports checked were “poor” in assessing the risk of harm.

Alistair Gaw, the depute chief inspector for the SWIA, said it was concerned at the failure to achieve national standards set by ministers.

He said: “What we have found is a great deal of inconsistency. There is excellent practice out there, but also areas where it needs to get a great deal better. Some authorities are performing much more poorly than others.”

Rob Murphy, head of social work at Inverclyde Council, admitted failures but insisted: “We have to make sure we target resources where they are most required.”

Susan Matheson, the chief executive of Safeguarding Communities – Reducing Offending, said: “The social workers that we work with are very professional and perhaps it’s a question of resources and not having enough qualified or experienced staff available.”

The grim consequences of failing to properly supervise offenders was highlighted by the case of James Campbell, 21, who abducted and tried to rape a two- year-old girl two months after he was freed from Polmont Young Offenders Institution. He had served only 18 months of a three-year sentence for trying to rape a woman of 91, when he was placed in a hostel in Coatbridge, Lanarkshire.

Weeks later, armed with a knife, he snatched the child from her bed in the middle of the night and attempted to rape her.

North Lanarkshire Council was slated in Social Work Inspection Agency report on the case.