Council has no excuses as three are suspended over foster care abuse

Vale of Glamorgan Council has said ‘there are no excuses’ after it placed a disturbed teenager in foster care with young children he went on to abuse.

The council has  published the findings of its inquiry into how a 19-year-old with a history of sexual behaviour with children was placed by social services with a family that included a nine-year-old and a two-year-old whom he subsequently abused and raped.

In announcing the results of its investigation, the council has apologised unreservedly to the young victims and their family, saying that the tragic event should never have happened.

Director of social services at the council, Philip Evans, said: ‘There are no excuses: this should not have happened.  The criticisms in the report are fully justified, not only by the evidence of failings but particularly because of the harm done.  Some of our staff did not meet their individual and collective responsibilities for taking action to protect children.

‘We join with the rest of the council in deeply regretting the serious consequences for two young children and for their parents, people who had opened their home to vulnerable adults.  We again apologise sincerely and unreservedly and we will try to make amends.

‘This was a tragic event. The investigation found that, while the young man was looked after by the council as a child, the risks he posed were recognised, shared and managed correctly by social services.

‘However, when he left care at 18, his full history was not transferred effectively and decisions were made without crucial details.  It is clear that this case revealed problems in our ability to manage the way in which vulnerable young people who may pose a risk to others move into adulthood.’

The council started an urgent inquiry as soon as senior managers became aware allegations of abuse had been made by the children.  The NSPCC provided independent scrutiny of the inquiry.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: ‘The NSPCC is deeply saddened by this tragic case and the impact on the lives of two young children and their parents.

‘On the basis of the information that has been put before us, we are satisfied that the inquiry process has been rigorous, that the inquiry report acknowledges what went wrong in this case and that the action plan seeks to ensure that this does not happen again.’

From the outset, the council acknowledged that staff in social services had made a serious error of judgement in placing the young man with the family.  The report describes what went wrong and why and makes 12 recommendations for improvement.  The council has produced a detailed action plan in response and guarantees that all the actions will be carried out.

The key action points include:

    * A review has started in both Children’s and Adult Services to change the structure of frontline services, to ensure better coordination and transfer of information.
    * All the management arrangements for the Leaving Care Team have been changed, in order to tackle urgently identified shortfalls in the way in which the service works.
    * An independent check has been made to ensure that all other adult placements are safe.

Leader of the Vale Council, Cllr Gordon Kemp, said: ‘Sadly we can never undo what happened, we can only apologise and do everything we can to ensure such an incident never happens again. Only the highest standards of social work practice are acceptable.  I will be working with our Cabinet and director of social services to ensure that all the recommendations are quickly and thoroughly carried out.’

‘The council’s disciplinary policy has been implemented.  If staff are found to have committed gross misconduct they will face dismissal. The case has also been reported to the Care Council for Wales, which registers social workers and deals with allegations of professional misconduct, and to the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales.’

 As required by the Welsh Assembly Government guidance, folowing the inquiry there will also be an independent serious case review carried out by the Local Safeguarding Children Board, which is a statutory body in its own right.

Three members of the social care team have currently been suspended and all staff are now to recieve additional training.

Read the full report here.