MP’s fury at incompetent inspections

Inspections carried out by the Commission for Social Care
Inspections have been branded “limp affairs” after serious concerns
were raised over its handling of a foster care agency that placed a
teenage sex offender with foster carers who had children of their

During a House of Commons adjournment debate, the Labour MP for
Warwick and Leamington James Plaskitt accused the CSCI and the now
defunct National Care Standards Commission of a series of
“systematic failures as a result of organisational

He said the two organisations had failed to investigate why Happen
Fostercare Agency, based in the Midlands, had not told foster
carers that the 13-year-old boy it placed with them had a history
of sexually abusing children.

“All that raises serious doubts in my mind about the competence of
the CSCI,” said Plaskitt. “Either the inspectors did not inspect or
they did but opted to cover up what they found. Either is
indefensible given that not only reputations are at stake but the
safety and security of children.”

He told MPs the foster carers had had to fight for an independent
investigation after two earlier inquiries carried out by the NCSC
failed to highlight their concerns. The CSCI took over inspection
responsibilities from the NCSC in April 2004, a month after the
independent investigation reported.

Despite this investigation urging the NCSC to “examine its
practices in relation to this provider and review their fitness as
a matter of urgency”, Plaskitt claimed the CSCI had still failed to
act seven months later. It had also informed Northamptonshire
Council that there were “no indications of concern regarding the
agency,”he said.

Children’s minister Margaret Hodge said in the House of Commons
that the handling of the foster carers’ complaint was “simply not
good enough”.

However, she insisted that she had confidence in CSCI staff – many
of whom transferred over from the NCSC – and that it now had a
completely different management structure from its predecessor.

The commission had given her assurances that action was being taken
to improve the handling of complaints in the future, she added, and
the fostering agency’s annual inspection had been brought forward
from January to 4 October.

A spokesperson for the CSCI confirmed that the organisation was
reviewing all aspects of its work.

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