Council ‘failed to investigate abuse claims’

A council failed to investigate serious concerns of child abuse, a damning report today reveals. The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales has made a finding of serious maladministration against Merthyr Tydfil Council in relation to two children, named as B and C.

And the ombudsman upheld a complaint from the children’s grandparents – Mr and Mrs A – that the council had not provided any financial support after they took the pair in.

The report, which is published today, said social workers failed to investigate after marks were noticed on the children and their behaviour changed. The pair had previously been on the child protection register because their father had two convictions for sex offences against teenage girls.

But they were re-classed as children in need in April 2004 and their names removed from the register. The children’s school contacted social services after unexplained marks were noticed on B’s back and daycare staff raised concerns about C’s behaviour.

Further referrals to social services were made about the children in July 2004, and in October 2004 social workers asked Mr and Mrs A if the children could live with them.

The couple claimed they had been told by social services they would receive financial support while they looked after the children, but did not receive any money. The council said the grandparents’ decision to take the children in was a private matter and meant they did not qualify for financial support.

But the ombudsman’s report said: “As the council had not followed child protection procedures, there was a lack of clarity about the children’s status. The council’s record keeping was also poor.

“The ombudsman was of the view that the evidence indicated that the children were placed with Mr and Mrs A by the council and were therefore ‘looked after’ children and should have been treated as such.

“It should also ensure that potential carers are given appropriate information and advice before they take on the care of children.”

Merthyr council said in a statement: “Merthyr Tydfil Council accepts the ombudsman’s recommendations in this case, in what was and still is a particularly complex area of social policy and law.

“We believe the council has already addressed the issues regarding practice and processes raised in this report and now that the report has been finalised, will be responding accordingly.”