Immediate action was promised by ministers yesterday following a
damning indictment of Scottish Borders Council’s social work and
Two separate reports by the Social Work Services Inspectorate and
the Mental Welfare Commission conclude that failures at every level
in social work, police and health allowed four people with learning
difficulties to be seriously abused and neglected over 30
One of the four, a woman referred to as Miss X, was admitted to
hospital in March 2002 having suffered extreme levels of physical
and sexual abuse. Three others are now known to have suffered
serious sexual abuse and physical neglect.
The SWSI report says: “The repeated horrific sexual abuse for which
three men were convicted in 2002 could have been prevented had the
department acted on mounting evidence available over the previous
two decades.” Between 1976 and 2001, 28 allegations of abuse were
reported to the social work department.
Peter Peacock, Scottish executive minister for education and young
people, said that he had never come across “a more appalling and
harrowing case”, adding that it told a “depressingly familiar tale
which resonates with the findings of all too many inquiries down
the years into child abuse cases”.
He pledged immediate and wide-ranging action, which will include
new inspection arrangements, new legislation to protect vulnerable
people, and a joint inspection regime for learning difficulty
services. He has asked the Scottish Social Services Council to
decide whether, in the light of the report, any members of staff
involved are fit to be registered as social workers.
Peacock has also pledged to take a fundamental look at social work
in Scotland to ensure it meets the country’s needs in the 21st
Ruth Stark, professional officer for British Association of Social
Workers Scotland, welcomed the review and the recommendation for
new legislation to protect vulnerable people.
Norman Dunning, chief executive of learning difficulties charity
Enable, agreed but called for people with learning difficulties and
their carers to be “centrally involved in the training of social
workers to help ensure social work practice meets their needs”.