Council leaders reject claims child in care spent night in motorway services

COUNCIL leaders have dismissed claims a child in care spent a night in a motorway services cafe – and challenged those who made it to produce details of the incident which they say did not take place.

The move follows criticism of Swansea’s Social Services department by Assembly health minister Edwina Hart, who learned of the claim after a meeting with children’s home staff and Labour group members, including Swansea leader David Phillips.

Welsh Labour leadership candidate Mrs Hart issued a statement saying she had been told children had been removed from homes and forced to spend the night with a social worker in a motorway cafe because there has been no emergency accommodation.

The claim has been dismissed as untrue by councillor Nick Tregoning, who heads the under-pressure department.

And council leader Chris Holley has called on those who made the allegation to supply details, so that an investigation can be carried out.

“If this has happened, we need to know about it,” said councillor Holley.

“We are going back and interviewing staff, and doing double checks, but we are convinced it is not true.

“If anyone has evidence they should come forward with details of dates and times.

“It is highly irregular, and if it is true it would be a disciplinary issue.

“If that has happened, we need to know about it because we are talking about vulnerable children.”

The row comes just months after Social Services were put under the supervision of an Assembly-appointed intervention board, in a bid to improve services.

It was set-up following the death of 13-month old toddler Aaron Gilbert in Townhill, at the hands of Andrew Lloyd, lover of the baby’s mother Rebecca Lewis.

Mrs Hart’s criticism of the department has been backed by union GMB.

Convenor Jackie Griffiths said: “The criticism of Swansea Social Services is very valid.

“I know money is tight and they have to watch every penny. But as well as this allegation there are other issues, including potential closures of children’s homes, which may not be perfect, but they keep children in their local area.”

Nick Tregoning, Cabinet Member for Social Services, said: “The idea that Swansea Council is not investing in Child and Family services is self-evidently wrong. It is surprising the GMB does not know this.

“A report accepted by Full Council only this week states very clearly that the Council is spending £6.5m more on child and family services this financial year alone”