Three social workers suspended over abuser placed with children

Three social workers were suspended today after a youth with a history of sexual offences was placed in a home with two young children.

The parents were not told of the teenager’s troubled history and only discovered that he had been carrying out repeated sexual assaults on their two-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter months later.

The 19-year-old was jailed indefinitely earlier this year after admitting raping the boy and sexually assaulting the girl.

Vale of Glamorgan Council in South Wales today apologised “unreservedly” to the family for placing him with them.

An investigation overseen by the NSPCC found that social workers had been aware of his history but the information was not passed on when he became an adult. He spent several months living with the family under an adult placement scheme after becoming homeless.

The council’s director of social services, Philip Evans, admitted that a serious mistake had been made. He said: “There are no excuses, this should never have happened. Some of our staff did not meet their individual and collective responsibilities for taking action to protect children.

“We deeply regret the serious consequences for two young children and for their parents, people who have opened their home to vulnerable adults. We apologise sincerely and will try to make amends.”

Social services failed to pass on information about the boy’s background and the family had no idea of his history until their daughter told them that he had been assaulting her. The report said that the youth had been regarded by social workers as a “vulnerable” young man who was himself in need of protection.

It stated: “When the teenager became a young adult and staff were hoping him to find accommodation, they concentrated on his vulnerability.

“Seen for the most part as a victim in many parts of his life, he was considered to be the one in need of protection.

“Because of this focus, much of the relevant information was not made available to the parents of the children and to some of the staff making the decisions about accommodation. As a consequence they were denied the opportunity to take appropriate action to safeguard the children living in the home.”

Mr Evans, who has refused to resign, said: “People reading this report will be distressed, shocked and angry at the serious mistakes that were made. They will also be concerned that other children are not made to suffer in this way.

“This means facing up to the severe but justifiable criticism in the report to restore public trust in social services. Serious mistakes were made and we offer no excuses.

“It is especially sad for us to have let down a family who opened their home on behalf of the community.”

The report released today made 12 recommendations for improvement and said that disciplinary action had been started.

Mr Evans said that he wants to see the action plan through and added: “This is not a time to be walking away from the problem.”

The three social services staff who have been suspended have not been identified but could lose their jobs after disciplinary hearings.

At his trial Cardiff Crown Court was told that the youth had a history of sexual offences against children. In 2003 he was accused of “sexually inappropriate behaviour” with a young boy.

Two years later he admitted exposing himself and touching another young boy sexually while they were both living at a hostel.

He was also dismissed from a job in a bowling alley in 2007 after parents discovered that he was trying to get the telephone numbers of young girls. He became homeless last year after he was accused of indecently assaulting a 16-year-old girl as she slept.

The Cardiff Recorder, Nicholas Cooke, QC, said that it was a matter of “grave concern” how the youth ended up with the family. The teenager was given an indefinite sentence and told that he would be released only when he was considered “no longer a risk”.

He was ordered to register as a sex offender and banned from working with children for life.

The Recorder said: “In this case a tragedy ensued for a family who only wished to serve the community and who were let down by the system.

“They were unable to protect their own children because of a failure to provide them with information.”

An NSPCC spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened by this tragic case and the impact on the lives of two young children and their parents.

“From the outset the council acknowledged social services had made a serious error of judgement in placing the young man with the family.”

Gordon Kemp, Vale of Glamorgan council leader, said that the family had been kept informed of the inquiry and its findings. He praised their “dignity” throughout the ordeal and said that they were “still committed” to the adult placement service.

Councillor Kemp said: “It is clear there was a serious error of judgement. We have sought to work with the family to find out what assistance can be given to meet any needs they may have.

“It has been an exceptionally difficult time for them. It is especially sad that these tragic events should have befallen a family who provide a service to vulnerable people in need of accommodation.”