Conduct committee hears sexual harassment allegations

A former board member of the Children’s Workforce Development Council is appearing before a conduct committee for allegedly harassing four female staff during a period of 10 years.

At the time Tom Starkey was a director of social work at Clifford House, a provider of children’ services.

The committee heard that Starkey pestered the women for dates and made numerous sexually explicit comments between 1995 and 2005. He allegedly boasted that women could not resist his “money, status and sexual prowess”.

Starkey allegedly described his experience of anal sex to one of the women, social worker Linda Gresty. Another woman, admin support officer Victoria Preece, alleged Starkey grabbed her breasts, put his hand up her dress and ripped her tights.

Barricaded room

Another of the four women, Stephanie Rowles, has alleged she barricaded herself in a hotel room during a work trip after being scared by Starkey’s sexual advances.

Managers of Clifford House commissioned two independent social workers to carry out two reports after receiving complaints about Starkey’s sexual harassment. Both reports upheld the complaints.

In his opening statement for the General Social Care Council today, Neil Grant said the committee needed to look at Starkey’s role as a senior social worker, as well as his national profile and role in shaping the national children’s agenda. Grant told the committee that the health, well-being and careers of all the women had been affected as a result of the harassment.

Starkey denies the allegations and says he had a relationship with Preece.

Starkey was a board member of the Children’s Workforce Development Council from April 2005 to March  this year.

The hearing continues.

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