How child abusers duped Wakefield social workers

Craig Faunch, 29, and Ian Wathey, 38, were approved as foster carers on 11 July 2003, just under a year after they made their initial enquiry.

They were Wakefield Council’s first gay foster carers. Over the next two years, until 24 June 2005 when they were de-registered, 18 children were placed with the couple. They were later convicted on 12 counts of sexual offences against four of those children.

Critical moments from the report

● Early placements were made to Faunch and Wathey to give them experience or to meet other foster carers’ respite needs, but not to meet the individual needs of children or to match them to the new carers’ capabilities. This set the pattern for future placements.

● There were many staff vacancies and a lot of staff sickness. A fostering social worker was recruited but no police or medical checks made or references taken up. “We just needed staff to do the work,” said one manager.

● Social workers with heavy caseloads were not encouraged to go on courses because their work took priority over training. Two of the workers involved with the abused children had received little or no child protection training.

● Management failed to deal with issues of staff sickness or competence, leading to “organisational malaise” where poor performance was complained about but tolerated.

● Faunch and Wathey’s second supervising social worker – recruited from an agency – was led to believe that they were highly regarded carers. She had little experience of short-term, emergency placement foster care, yet received no induction and had no say about which carers were allocated to her. She became increasingly pressurised by the couple but was unsupported by her manager. Placements were uncoordinated and she rarely had face-to-face meetings with the placed children’s social workers, either before placement or immediately after. She later described herself as being out of her depth with Faunch and Wathey, and even requested to be removed from the case.

● Faunch and Wathey had acquired a “special status”, with one worker describing them as “trophy carers”. They complained endlessly about money and, after much badgering, often got what they wanted.

● One social worker did have concerns early on about Faunch and Wathey and tried to get them de-registered. She wrote a clear, strong letter of recommendation to the first fostering review in July 2004. However, she was often off sick. Three unqualified support workers in the same team who took over responsibility in her absence shared her concerns but lacked the support or confidence to articulate these more strongly. In addition, the foster carers started to complain about the social workers’ reliability and care planning.

● Several social workers visited the foster home and, while most had some suspicions (although not about abuse), no one raised these formally at the time. There was a real concern that any criticism of the carers would be seen as homophobic. Given the shortage of carers willing to accept “difficult to place” children, there were also fears of losing Faunch and Wathey to another authority or fostering agency if they were criticised.

● The competency of a newly appointed fostering team manager with responsibility for Faunch and Wathey was also called into question, but again nothing was done.

● The independent reviewing team struggled with sickness and vacancies. Foster care reviews were the lowest priority of the team’s three areas of responsibility. Information was requested on Faunch and Wathey but was not provided by the foster care manager.

● Faunch and Wathey were re-approved as carers in November 2004 although no checks were made regarding their fostering experiences over the previous year.

● Faunch and Wathey manipulated the birthparents, subtly undermining their confidence. When one parent began to have concerns, they distanced themselves from her and began to find ways to intimidate and frighten her. With another parent, they recognised she had long-standing grievances with social services so involved her in their grievances about finance and support.

Related article
Wakefield child abuse scandal puts social work attitudes in spotlight
Wakefield response
Wakefield Action Plan

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