A social worker who left a teenage girl who had disclosed physical abuse at the side of a road instead of taking her to a place of safety acted in the child’s “best interests”, she told a General Social Care Council conduct committee yesterday.
Tricia Forbes, at the time a deputy team manager at Waltham Forest Council, had been instructed by a manager to help a social work assistant, known as TJ, with the case.
She had been told to interview the child’s parents and arrange for them to take her to a GP so she could ger treatment for a head injury, which the girl said had been inflicted by her father.
Instead she drove TJ and another social worker, who had been helping with the case, to the parents’ home so they could do the interview. She then allowed the girl, known as A, who had been “adamant” she did not want to go home, out of the car so she could return a coat to a friend.
A, who along with siblings B and C had previously been placed on the child protection register for two years, later went missing for four days before being admitted to hospital with alcohol poisoning.
Under questioning from GSCC counsel Neil Grant, Forbes said she had not believed the girl was at risk and that by allowing her to return the jacket, “not restraining her or forcing her to stay in the car” she had acted in her best interests.
Forbes admitted she did not know exactly where A was going and had no contact details for her or the friend. Grant said: “She had a head wound when you left her…you did not know exactly where she was going.”
“I did not believe she was at risk at the time,” replied Forbes.
After A’s admission to hospital Forbes chaired a strategy meeting on the case. She has admitted failing to inform the agencies at the meeting that she had been involved with the care just days before.
Forbes said she felt embarrassed because she did not have all the information about the case as she had been on a course the day after she had let A out of the car. “I suppose I did not want to look silly or unorganised or that I was unprepared,” she said.
“You were concerned about your personal reputation,” asked Grant
“No,” said Forbes. “I just thought if questions were asked I would not be able to answer them.”
Forbes has admitted failing to initiate a child protection investigation, not informing police about the case, and failing to share information at the strategy meeting. But she has denied another charge that she failed to report back to the manager.
She maintains that she returned to the office to speak to the manager. However, one of the social workers who went to interview the parents has said that she rang into the office after the visit and explained what Forbes has done and that the manager said: “What do you mean she’s not there? Who in their right mind would leave a child at the side of the road?”.
All evidence has now been heard and the conduct committee will announce its findings later today.
Read the background on the Tricia Forbes case.