Social work boss turned his back on youngsters being abused

A YOUNG boy was so “malnourished and unkempt” that he kept fainting in class after failures by a Scottish social work boss, a misconduct panel has heard.

Stephen MacKay was yesterday banned from working in social services after he failed to protect vulnerable children living with violent, abusive and neglectful parents.

The 48-year-old had admitted a catalogue of 19 gross misconduct charges.

A social work misconduct panel heard that young children were left living in abusive homes and subject to violent attacks.

As team manager of a children and families unit in Dingwall for Highland Council, MacKay lost control of his caseload as he breached 11 separate social work codes of practice.

In one instance, MacKay was referred to help a troubled family in a situation which he himself described as being “one of the worst cases of domestic abuse I have ever witnessed”.

However, he proceeded to ignore the case, failing to visit the under-threat children for six months during which time they were at risk of harm.

In another case, one boy was so “malnourished and unkempt” that he kept fainting in class, and prompted his school depute rector to contact MacKay directly in a desperate plea for him to take action.

Still the social worker ignored the case and the boy’s condition deteriorated until other professionals were forced to step in.

Now, MacKay of Ardross, Ross-shire, has been sacked from his post and removed from the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) register.

Claude Knights, director of children’s charity Kidscape, said: “This is a shocking case involving an individual, who by failing to carry out his professional responsibilities, put children at grave risk of harm. “Many vulnerable young people have already been failed by their primary carers, and it is very tragic when the safety net of children’s services also lets them down.

“The harrowing case of Baby P, led to much rethinking of safeguarding children procedures, but sadly there are still too many examples of systemic failures.”

At an SSSC conduct sub-committee hearing in Dundee last week, the full extent of MacKay’s neglect was revealed.

Presenting the SSSC case, solicitor Lindsay Thomson said that MacKay had admitted his guilt by signing a joint statement of facts.

She said: “Family F had four children, aged between five and 14, who were exposed to domestic abuse by the father, and subsequently, by the mother’s partner. They were on the child protection register and subject to supervision requirements. Stephen MacKay himself described Family F as one of the worst cases of domestic abuse he had seen in all his years’ experience.

“In November 2009, concerns were raised over the safety of the children, but between 19 January and 16 June 2010 MacKay failed to home visit the children. He later claimed the risk to the children had diminished, though health professionals expressed concerns over the lack of change in the family situation.”

MacKay was dismissed by Highland Council on 24 August, 2010 on grounds of gross misconduct.

The SSSC conduct sub-committee decided yesterday to remove MacKay from the register. He has 14 days to appeal.

Failure to protect the vulnerable

Family A: PRESENTING the SSSC case, solicitor Lindsay Thomson referred to Family B, which had three children under the age of five on the child risk register and who were referred to the Children’s Reporter in February 2010.

Mrs Thomson said: “The children were at significant risk of physical injury after one child got a broken arm when assaulted by the father.

“The mother was clearly struggling to cope with three young boys. But MacKay failed to react. In May, the children were moved to live with their grandparents after one child also said he had been assaulted by the father.”

Family C:
IN January 2010, MacKay took part in a joint police/social work action with Family C. He was the lead professional with the family and had 14 days to act.

He was reminded that child protection documents needed to be completed but “failed to progress the case” and a colleague again had to pick up the case.

Family D:
The SSSC also heard about Family D and one of the children, aged 14, whose school contacted MacKay about his several issues including “health, fatigue, fainting and eating”.

The depute rector of Dingwall Academy pleaded with MacKay to act but the social worker never responded and a colleague was forced to step in to save the child.