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since June 19, 2001


Fresh hope for children 'failed' by social services

UK Social Services fail children

Subject:       Re: Stuff up the family, stuff up men...
    Date:       Sun, 18 Oct 1998 22:17:14 +1300
   From:      [omitted]

Walter wrote:
> Is there any hope of getting the text of the whole article?

Yes, below.

> Would it be possible to find out the original source of the stats?

Our list members in the UK - any chance?

[The sources of the figures quoted in the first article are quoted at the end of the second article shown below --WHS]

Mark R


ISSUE 1215     Electronic Telegraph [A publication owned by Conrad Black]
Tuesday 22 September 1998

Fresh hope for children 'failed' by social services
By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent  

FRANK Dobson yesterday admitted that social workers were "failing" to protect thousands of vulnerable youngsters as he announced an overhaul of child care services.

The Health Secretary promised a fresh start after a report suggested that all council social services departments were at fault.  Mr. Dobson told a social services conference: "Some children were taken into care because they were at risk and they ended up being even more at risk in care than they were before. The system has failed."

Promising "this is where bad practice ends", he published details of a three-year programme giving councils "substantial" grants for child care.  The report by the Social Services Inspectorate found that not one of the 27 local authorities it studied could be confident about its services for children. Despite abuse scandals of recent years, there were "serious weaknesses" in the procedures used to vet staff.

In some authorities, recruits were asked for only one reference, police checks were not completed before new social workers were allowed to start, and checks on temporary staff were particularly lax. In three councils, children at risk did not have social workers allocated, while some vulnerable 16-year-olds were dumped in bed and breakfast accommodation and left to wander the streets. [Note 1 --WHS]

Youngsters in care form just 0.5 per cent of the child population, said Mr. Dobson.  Yet men who have been in care make up 22 per cent of the prison population.  One in three people sleeping rough in London had also been in care, he added.  [Note 2 --WHS]


The above piece was partly based on and linked to this Department of Health report.


98/387 Monday 21st September 1998


Social services are failing to provide proper care and protection for vulnerable children and there are wide variations in standards, says a report published today.

'Someone Else's Children', a report by the Social Services Inspectorate, says inspectors found huge variations in standards up and down the country, and in individual councils.  None of the 27 local authorities inspected could be confident about their services for all children.

Problems uncovered include confusion about how best to protect children, lax staff vetting, no systematic way of seeing if staff are following rules and guidance, many children placed in care only in a crisis, and failure to comply with the law by providing independent checks on some children.

Inspectors say looking after children in the care system is one of the most well regulated areas of social care - with good reason.  Social services departments are well aware of the recommendations of the Utting and Warner reports, and had on paper addressed most of the issues.  But they are failing to check that their safeguards and policies are applied by staff.

Serious weaknesses included the failure to check the identity of new staff; only asking for one reference; lax staff checks, especially for agency and temporary staff; and failure to complete police checks before employing new staff.

Inspectors say some of the most worrying practices they found included: a majority of placements made in crisis on the day of the emergency; young people with complex needs simply being contained and given no other help; vulnerable 16 year olds placed in bed and breakfast and left to wander the streets; and young people with mental health problems being sent to the wrong placements through lack of alternatives or funding.

Denise Platt, Chief Inspector of the Social Services Inspectorate, said:

"Our report shows that while some children are being well cared for, others are not.  We found wide variations in practice, even inside the same social services department. Managers may have policies and safeguards, but they don't know if they are being followed.

"Councils are struggling to fulfil their legal duty to act as corporate parents for children in their care.  Many of the children now looked after by social services are damaged and difficult to care for.  But it is not enough to succeed for one child and fail another.  Protecting and caring for children has to be one of local government's most important tasks.

"Today's announcement by Health Secretary Frank Dobson will set clear objectives for the future management of children's services, objectives which we will use to scrutinise and monitor the performance of councils."

In three of the 27 local authorities inspected, children identified as being at risk did not have social workers allocated to their case.  In one council, 26 per cent of children did not have a social worker allocated.  And another local authority could not provide a figure.

Other findings were that some councils were failing to comply with the law by not providing for independent visitors to children who had no families.  A high level of school exclusions, especially for children in homes. Many care plans were superficial and out of date; the quality of assessments and plans was variable, and focused on short term objectives.

Social services had particular problems in meeting the health needs of children with severe behavioural and psychiatric problems.  Planning arrangements between social services and health authorities varied from being creative to non-existent.

Individual children's needs were compromised by a tendency to focus on the short term and by a restricted range of possible placements.  Too often placements were crisis driven. In most parts of the country there are placement shortages and children are now moved much more frequently from one care placement to another.

All social services had special plans for children's services and some councils had an integrated approach to meeting the needs of children in their care.

During one of the biggest inspections carried out by the Inspectorate, 1000 people were questioned and over 400 children's cases reviewed.


  1. 'Someone Else's Children' summarises the findings of two inspections: Planning and Decision Making for Children Looked After, in ten local authorities; and Safety of Children Looked After, in 17 local authorities.  Copies of the report are available from:

        Department of Health
        P O Box 410, Wetherby
        S23 7LN.

    Copies for the press only are available from the DOH
    Press Office.

  2. The Utting report, Safety of Children in the Public Care, was published in November 1997.  The Warner report, Choosing with Care, was published in December 1992.

In England, 51,000 children are in the care of local authorities.



My Notes —WHS:

  1. The situation isn't any better in Canada or in the US.  My own children told me about the opportunities for earning extra money given by Social Services in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to my ex-wife.  The ex-wife had at the time been a welfare recipient of many years.  She had  no high-school diploma and not even any kind of  training in social service work.  Children who had been apprehended were given into her care.  She liked to party and had no compunctions about leaving a 10 or 12-year-old girl that was given into her care to be supervised by a 14-year-old girl who in turn had serious problems with substance abuse.  That happened on the same very day that the 10- or 12-old was given into her care.  What must be realised is that my ex-wife saw nothing wrong with my youngest daughter, aged 13, to date 25-year-old men and to have her stay out until the early hours of the morning.
        My ex-wife eventually was encouraged to take out an education loan offered by the Alberta Provincial Government, took some social worker training, passed some kind of an exam and became an ostensibly qualified social worker in 1990.  Following that she promptly moved to Vernon B.C. where she now works for B.C. Social Services, again providing care to apprehended children.
        Knowing what I do about my ex-wive's M.O., I tried to find out whether her educational loan was ever paid back.  I checked with the Fraud Investigation Department of the Alberta Government.  They couldn't tell me anything, although they made a search.  They had no record of a loan ever having been issued to her.  They didn't even have a record of my ex-wife ever having had any contact with Social Services, even though I gave them the various names under which she went at times.  However, it must also be considered that they told me that due to restructuring and cut-backs they could only go back 1 1/2 years in their files.

    See also:
                   Horrors of the Non-Home
                   Are Children safe in Battered Women Shelters?

  2. That means that when they become adults, children who were in the care of Social Services are 56 times more likely to become incarcerated and that such people are 99.5 times more likely to be homeless than all other people who were not in the "care" of Social Services.

Posted  2000 04 04
2001 01 29
2002  01 01 (updated links to references)
2002 12 22 (format changes)