First, there was baby P, then this week we read of a foster family in Wales who had a teenager placed in their care who was a convicted sex offender. Social services failed to inform the foster parents of the boy's past and he then went on to sexually assault their daughter and sodomise their young son.
Now, most people are shocked that something like this has happened and there are alarmed headlines in the newspapers. After all, social services are supposed to protect children, not leave them in harm's way.
However, personally, I'm not at all shocked by this disclosure. Horrified and incensed yes, but surprised no. I come across incompetence and risk taking all the time in the social care sector.
Last week, I did a shift at another children's care home. One of my colleagues was transfered in from another home a few streets away. This was because one of the residents in her home, a 17 year old boy, had been threatening her all day whilst she was locked in the office waiting for the police to arrive. The experience had badly shaken her. Although used to threats and intimidation it was particularly severe that day and she feared the boy in question was likely to strike her.
Now, this boy, almost 18, had a history of sexually abusing young girls including pre-pubescent children. Social services were aware of this, but none the less they needed to find him somewhere to live. The care home they found for him was in a residential street with many families with young girls. My colleague informed me that after he had arrived, the private company that ran the care home warned the staff, that under no circumstances were they to inform any of the neighbours of the boy's history of sexual offending. To do so could lead to dismissal or a disciplinary hearing. Over the coming weeks, the staff watched him trying to lure young girls back to the house, powerless to do anything about it for fear of losing their jobs.
So, you see now why when I read of gross incompetence by social services or any other public sector body I'm not in the least bit surprised. I've been experiencing it for years.