Workloads and poor management blamed for mishandling of case involving torture of woman with learning difficulties

A damning report into the handling of a case in the Borders
involving the sexual abuse and torture of a woman with learning
difficulties, blames excessive workloads and flaws in management
procedures, writes Nicola Barry.

The report says the situation was so bad that community teams
were only able to practice “fire-fighting”.

One former member of staff told Community Care that
stress levels were “through the roof” with each social worker
responsible for at least seventy cases, a number which, in one
case, rocketed to 130 in a bad month.

The report by independent social work consultant David Stallard
also says crucial “signals” were overlooked; signals which should
have alerted social workers to the fact that the 30-year-old woman
was seriously at risk.

Grounds existed for protection orders to be implemented, but
they were not – not until March this year anyway – by which
time the terrified young woman had sustained a total of 71 injuries
and had to be hospitalised.

James Mercer, Ross Douglas, and Alexander Maben were jailed for
a total of 24 years at the high court in Edinburgh for their
crimes. The judge, Lord Dawson, said it was the most shocking case
of its kind he had ever seen.

The woman, who cannot be named, had been a client of the
authority for many years.

The report makes 13 succinct recommendations, urging the
authority to review and update its guidelines for the protection of
vulnerable adults.

Colin Johnson, director of lifelong care, said: “We acknowledge
there were potential signals that should have encouraged early

“Following the review we are determined to take significant
corrective action to put things right.”

Borders council refused to say whether disciplinary action would
be taken for fear of prejudicing any further investigations.

Council officials said nine additional community social workers
are being recruited – an increase of 20 per cent.

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