A judge has praised the commitment of “bloodied and bruised” social workers to a girl whose early trauma had caused her to act in “an extremely aggressive” manner.
In a court judgment published last month, Justice Hayden “paid tribute to” Wigan council social workers who had experienced assaults at the hand of a 15-year-old girl with complex needs.
Hayden said: “Notwithstanding a catalogue of assaults, some of them involving significant bruising, social workers have simply returned to work and resumed their commitment to care for [the child]. Bloodied and bruised they have simply got back into the ring.”
Hayden also criticised the “wholly inadequate” secure unit provision in England, as despite granting the council’s secure accommodation order, the council could not find a unit prepared to accommodate her.
The council had applied for a secure accommodation order for the girl, who grew up in “bleak and desperate” conditions where she experienced “profound physical and emotional harm” and had likely suffered sexual abuse.
It had tried many foster care and residential care placements over seven years, but each had broken down due to her violent behaviour and the placements’ inability to manage it.
‘Humbled’ by commitment
Despite the child being known to social services for her whole life, there was still a “limited appreciation” of what her needs were. She had never been diagnosed with a psychotic illness, and there was no suggestion she had experienced psychotic episodes.
Lawyers working on behalf of the local authority and the child said she and her siblings were “the most complex [children] this local authority has ever had to care for”.
Hayden praised both care workers and social workers who had worked with the child, saying he was “humbled” by their commitment. “Social workers often attract criticism and public disapproval; here the balance must be redressed. The professionalism and dedication that I have read about in this case shown by care workers on modest salaries and with limited support, requires to be acknowledged and paid tribute to.”
On the lack of suitable accommodation for the girl, Hayden said it was “profoundly depressing” the local authority was unable to find a suitable placement, and directed the case be sent to the education secretary, Justine Greening.
He granted the local authority’s application for a secure accommodation order, limited to a period of three months, but added: “I find myself, once again, in a position of considering the needs of a vulnerable young person in the care of the State where the State itself is unable to meet the needs of a child which they themselves purport to parent.”
“I propose to put this judgment into the public domain because I regard it as a matter of public interest. Once again, a young and vulnerable person finds herself in a parlous situation where there is wholly inadequate provision… It is impossible not to confront the depressing reality that current secure accommodation resources in England and Wales are inadequate.”
Hayden said the case would be listed before him in the seven days following his judgment, which would have been before the end of November, to review the girls’ situation.