Vale of Glamorgan Council’s social services director today apologised for “fundamental flaws” in practice which led to a teenage sex offender being placed in a home with two young children, whom he then abused.
Philip Evans announced a major retraining programme for staff and an overhaul of risk management and case referral systems in the wake of a damning report, while three members of staff – social workers and managers – have been suspended.
Catalogue of errors
The internal inquiry into the case criticised poor-quality assessments, information sharing and a failure to follow child protection procedures.
While the placement was made by Vale of Glamorgan’s adult placement service, it was not criticised in the report, which laid particular blame at the door of the leaving care team, which referred the young man to the service.
The report found that the placement service was not provided with a chronology of previous incidents involving the man or the findings of assessments made regarding the risk he may pose to others.
It said the adult placement service and the family were “denied the opportunity to keep the children safe” as a result.
Youth seen as “victim”
Staff saw the 19-year-old man as a vulnerable adult in need of emergency accommodation after he was evicted from a hostel in November 2008.
The report found they focused too heavily on his needs, seeing him as a “victim”.
As a result, the decision to place the youth with a family containing two young children without a proper risk assessment was “fundamentally flawed”.
He went on to rape the family’s two-year-old son and assaulted their daughter, aged nine.
Police not informed
But even when social workers learned of the allegations they failed to refer the matter to their child protection colleagues or the police, leaving it to the family to call the police.
However, the family asked for the adult placement service’s work in supporting them after the abuse was uncovered to be acknowledged.
Philip Evans said: “There are no excuses: this should not have happened. The criticisms in the report are fully justified, not only by the evidence of failings but particularly because of the harm done. Some of our staff did not meet their individual and collective responsibilities for taking action to protect children.
“It is clear that this case revealed problems in our ability to manage the way in which vulnerable young people who may pose a risk to others move into adulthood.”
Council leaders’ apology
A joint statement by council leader Gordon Kemp and chief executive John Maitland Evans said the council had apologised to the family “sincerely and unreservedly”.
Two further inquiries relating to the case are ongoing.
The Care Council for Wales is investigating the conduct of individual social workers involved in the case, while the Vale of Glamorgan Local Safeguarding Children Board will conduct a serious case review.
Minister responds to report
Gwenda Thomas, deputy minister for social services in Wales, promised to ensure any lessons to be learned nationally from these “tragic events” would be “implemented swiftly”.
Thomas has asked Rob Pickford, the chief inspector of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, to consider how the matters raised by the report should be taken further. She added that Pickford has written to the council’s director of social services to ensure that action is being taken to prevent similar mistakes from happening again.”