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on 26 April.


Last week’s discussion centred on the issue of
investigations into care workers being accused of abusing children.
We asked if care workers are always treated fairly, or are people
accused of crimes they did not commit?

These are the responses we received:

To whom it may concern. And it concerns all
who work with children.

I was dismissed from my post as service manager in June 2000
after allegations of sexual abuse were made against me by a man in
his mid-20s. The offences were said to have taken place in the
early 80s when I was the family’s field social worker. The
allegations are untrue. But I would say that.However, an employment
tribunal has recently found in my favour, awarding the maximum
compensation, which my ex-employer did not seek to mitigate.
Astonishingly, and outrageously, the officer who dismissed me said
under oath at the tribunal that she did not believe that I was
guilty of the alleged offences. However, I could not be re-engaged,
she said, because my name is on the Poca list. She, of course,
caused it to be so. The tribunal, with some reluctance, I felt,
accepted that for this reason alone (my being Poca listed) it could
not order re-engagement. It went further, expressing the view that
I am virtually unemployable.

The tribunal panel took the view, amongst other things, that I
had been the “victim of gross incompetence and wrongdoing”, that
“no reasonable employer” could have found me guilty of the
allegations, and that the investigation was deeply flawed. Despite
this, I remain unemployable and am obliged in effect to prove
myself innocent in order that my name be removed from the Poca
list. Not that I would ever want to work in childcare again.

The central point is that child sexual abuse is a hugely fraught
area of work in which there are few certainties. Those who
undertake work in this field must have a rock solid value base to
draw from, as well as proper training , experience, supervision and
support. It is simply not adequate to engage the first outside
consultant who happens to be available – in my case it would seem
that this person, though managerially qualified, had not conducted
an investigation herself since the early 80s. She was assisted by a
personnel officer.

Only by getting the principles, process and personnel right will
egregious wrongs be minimised. Child sexual abuse is of course
obscene. But so too is a system which attempts to deal with it in a
prejudiced, incompetent and dishonest manner, driven by moral
panic. The outcomes are similar – both result in misery and despair
for the innocent involved.

I am pleased to have had this opportunity to share some of my
thoughts on the matter. There’s much much more I could say but
perhaps there will be further opportunities.

Pete Morch

Are you aware that the general point of your
argument – historical abuse in residential homes may or may not
have occurred, but needs to be investigated has important
implications? If you have been rightfully convicted and imprisoned,
then good that is justice. If you have been wrongly convicted, or
had your career ruined by vague allegations dating back over 20
years which were solicited but not followed up by the police, well
that’s a price worth paying.

If this philosophy which reverses natural justice prevails then
every male worker who works as a social worker, teacher or foster
carer is gambling their professional future on the honesty and
integrity of the young people with whom they have contact – a
frightening thought and one of the main reasons for shortages of
male staff in those areas.

Michael Simpson

Although there are number of high profile
cases where mistakes have been made by investigators in various
types of cases of child abuse, these are small in number compared
to those which are carried out properly. I have 30 years experience
in child care, and I have had extensive experience of
investigations work and liaison with police during this time. The
vast majority of this experience tells me that I can have
confidence in the activities of the police in this matter.

Short of direct involvement in specific investigations it is
impossible to form a view other than on this basis. Reports in the
media do not give sufficient detail upon which to form a judgement,
and if they did, would I have the time to read them all? What my
actual experience tells me is that allegations are usually made
with sufficient detail as to be convincing (or not), and that such
detail makes it very difficult to persist in a lie over time and
under cross-examination. When numerous people, individually give
evidence of similar experiences, I find such evidence quite

In recent years residential childcare has done much to protect
children through robust complaints systems, independent
inspections, independent visitors, listening to children, improved
training, rigorous recruitment and selection systems etc. If
compensation was the motivation for people making allegations why
are current children in the care system, or recently discharged,
not making allegations in the same numbers as in earlier decades?
It has never been easier to get someone to take up a case, with
solicitors advertising ‘no win no fee’ all around the place. I
conclude that our efforts have been effective and that residential
child care is no longer the safe haven for child abusers that it
once was.

I am a manager of a residential children’s home and if these
‘innocent’ convicted people are right I should be concerned about
the future explosion of false allegations. Personally I do not
think this is likely. False allegations of any sort, let alone
against staff are few and far between.

We need to be very careful that the efforts of a few articulate
convicted criminals do not have a negative effect on our ability to
investigate these matters in the future, it’s already heavily
weighted on the side of the abuser.

No doubt prison corridors ring with pleas of innocence and
injustice in relation to the full range of crimes. We know that
there have been cases of miscarriage of justice in other criminal
cases, what is it that is so special about sexual offenders and
those who are violent towards children that warrants the setting up
of a select committee? If there is a problem with the way the
judiciary is being run, surely it needs investigating for all and
not just those who hurt children.

Steve Bateman


At last someone has spoken! I work in a
children’s home in Surrey and last month a member of staff was
arrested. A child made an allegation, which it later withdrew. But
it did not help the feelings of the member of staff involved. This
month, another member of staff was suspended due to an allegation
made by a child who had already received compensation for another
allegation she made. A meeting was held and there was no truth in
the allegation, but we are awaiting the crown prosecution service
to close the case. The child was allowed to go to school and tell
everyone about it. Why is it the child is believed and the member
of staff guilty till proven innocent? These situations are
destroying good workers. It’s no wonder people are not coming into
the caring profession because no one cares for


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