Still Lost In Care

BBC News Wales are reporting on the case of a teenage girl – who cannot be identified – whose mother is maintaining has been put as risk since she was taken into care by a council in Wales, which also cannot be identified http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-39492217

BBC Week In Week Out are screening a programme about the case tonight. It would seem that the girl was not removed from her mother as a result of abuse or neglect, but because her mother asked for help to deal with her daughter’s difficult behaviour whilst she was still at primary school. The girl experienced 17 different foster ‘placements’ in the space of four years and her mother is maintaining that being ‘in care’ has simply resulted in her daughter developing even more problems – her daughter did not attend school for two years and has now been categorised as being at risk of sexual exploitation. Dr Sally Holland, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, has refused to comment on the case. The BBC are making reference to ‘Sarah’s Report’, compiled twenty years ago concerning the fate of a 12 year old girl who was taken into care by the former South Glamorgan County Council, supposedly for her own protection. Once in the ‘care’ of this local authority, the life of this girl was completely derailed and she became involved in selling sex – at the age of 12 and then continued to do this throughout her teenage years. The BBC have tracked her down to see how she has fared since the damning report about the ‘care’ that she was offered was published. She is homeless, recently out of prison and a crack addict.

There is evidence pouring in from all over the UK that the children’s ‘care’ system was decades ago infiltrated by organised gangs of paedophiles and criminals who have snared ‘looked after children’ into lives of prostitution and drug use and were not above using extreme violence to control these children when they tried to escape the clutches of the criminal gangs. The problem remains today, although the extent of the problem has only recently become clear. There has been much media coverage in recent years regarding the north Wales child abuse scandal, the Islington child abuse scandal, the Leicestershire child abuse scandal and the Lambeth child abuse scandal, all dating back to the 1970s – another such scandal was the Kincorra boys home scandal in Northern Ireland, although that seems to have dropped off the radar now. Running alongside all this are the constant allegations of a ‘Westminster paedophile ring’ involving well-connected politicians and others close to Government who were alleged to be visiting children’s homes to molest the residents. The Public Inquiry currently chaired by Prof Alexis Jay has been charged with getting to the bottom of this and more, although that Inquiry is stumbling from disaster to disaster and a number of ‘survivors’ have declared it a social workers talking shop, walked out and published the names of those whom they claim abused them, many of whom were social workers. Some of the people who were associated with these historical scandals have done very well for themselves – Margaret Hodge was leader of Islington Council when the paedophile ring was running riot in the children’s homes there and is now Dame Margaret Hodge and in the House of Lords. Hodge was married to a judge, Henry Hodge and famously started Tony Blair on his political ‘journey’. Greville Janner was repeatedly alleged to have been abusing boys in Leicestershire and it was recently admitted that the CPS ‘missed’ opportunities to prosecute him for child sexual abuse. Janner ended up in the House of Lords as well. More recently organised sexual exploitation by criminal gangs targeting children ‘in care’ has been revealed in Rotherham, Telford, Oxford and other locations. This problem is not just about a few lacklustre social workers here and there, this is a form of organised crime that has penetrated much of the children’s welfare services across the UK. Furthermore, very few of the social workers and managers who were turning a blind eye to this, or indeed facilitating it, were ever removed from their jobs, yet alone prosecuted. They stayed in the system, climbing higher and higher and many of them are still there – or they are now in positions of even greater influence and power, following careers in public life.

As the BBC story is a Wales story I decided to do a quick google on the woman who was for many years at the pinnacle of the social care profession in Wales, a woman whom I heard much about a few years ago – who was alleged to be quite a problem in that she was completely ineffective in cleaning up social work and social care, one Rhian Huws-Williams, the Chief Executive of the Care Council for Wales. Rhian held this post from 2001 – just after the publication of the Waterhouse Report, which admitted that there had been a paedophile ring operating in the social services in north Wales and that Lucille Hughes, the former Director of Gwynedd Social Services, had known this but failed to respond. It was also alleged that the Waterhouse Report had been a huge cover-up and that hardly any of the people involved in the gang had been held to account. Rhian remained in post until 2014, but has now departed for London and is stating in her Linked In profile that she works for City and Guilds although it is very unclear what she actually does for them. However in 2016 Rhian did manage to pick up an Honorary Fellowship at Bangor University. Throughout Rhian’s tenure as CEO of the Care Council for Wales, social care in Wales was hit by scandal after scandal after scandal. But did anyone really expect anything different? She was someone who had spent her whole career is the social care system, nearly all of it in Wales – she will have worked with and be networked with the very people who were causing the problem. It will have been them who promoted her. Furthermore Rhian did her social work training at Bangor, back in the 70s – when the paedophile ring was operating in Gwynedd. So I think we can take it as a given that Rhian’s training will not have been of the highest calibre and that she could well have made some very worrying contacts along the way.

Whilst googling Rhian, I came across some information that I hadn’t been aware of. Rhian’s former empire has been replaced by a new body – were Rhian’s failures just too much of an embarrassment to be tolerated any longer? Is that why she has departed for London and a new career in a different direction? The new body is Social Care Wales, described as a ‘Welsh Government sponsored body’. It will of course be responsible for upholding ‘excellence’ – but they would say that wouldn’t they. Even Rhian didn’t say that her remit was to ignore a gang of paedophiles. The website of Social Care Wales has replaced the website of Rhian’s old outfit – that has disappeared off the face of the internet – and is packed with information. I haven’t bothered to read it all, it all looks depressingly familiar with guff about ‘concerns and compliments’ and ‘operational strategy’, but I do take an interest in who ‘leads’ these organisations because that’s where the real clues as what will be happening lie.

The Chair of Social Care Wales is Arwel Ellis Owen. Arwel is a graduate of Aberystwyth and is nothing whatever to do with social care, he has a media background and his profile states that he was Editor of BBC News Wales before moving on to work on Newsnight and Panorama. That will be the Newsnight that suppressed the Jimmy Savile story and the Panorama who never replied to me when I offered them my evidence relating to serious abuse and criminal conduct in the north Wales mental health services. So rather than expose wrongdoing, I very much suspect that Arwel has been appointed to this role in order to bury bad news and ensure that vacuous PR puffs regarding social care in Wales find their way into the media. Other Board members include:

Abigail Harris. Former Director of Bridgend Social Services and former CEO of Vale of Glamorgan Health Board. Well something was going badly wrong in Bridgend because there was that spate of suicides there that no-one ever got to the bottom of and the Vale of Glamorgan Health Board has not been without it’s problems. So Abigail won’t be the sort to blow the whistle if anything horrific emerges.

Aled Roberts. This looks very much like the former LibDem AM from north east Wales who was royally shafted by the dreadful Kirsty Williams. At least he is not boasting of any dodgy connections to the NHS or social services. My only experience of Aled was when I went to see him a few years ago on behalf of one of my friends who was abused by and then refused all care from the Hergest Unit – it was made quite clear by Dr David Healy that this man had been left to kill himself. Aled wrote my friend a letter sympathising but telling my friend that there was very little that he could do. So Aled was either someone else who was quietly assisting the mental health services with their slaughter – or he might just have been a remarkably honest politician.

Carl Cooper. A previous career in the voluntary sector – which as this blog has previously detailed is sadly full of nepotism and cronyism and is networked into the failing statutory sector anyway. Carl is a member of the Advisory Panel to the Welsh Language Commissioner, the illustrious Meri Huws, who has featured on this blog before. Meri does not know what she is doing and will be badly in need of advisors, but the recent concerns expressed about the failures of the Commissioner’s Welsh Language plan suggests that her advisors aren’t much good either. Meri is of course a former Gwynedd social worker. Carl is also a member of Powys Public Service Board and Vice-Chair of Powys Regional Partnership Board. That is the Powys that used to run a Local Health Board that effectively killed a suicidal young woman called Sylvan Money whilst she was in their ‘care’ – Sylvan’s inquest revealed 36 failings, one of which was two staff who were supposed to be observing her going shopping whilst on duty… Not a good omen.

Damien Bridgeman. A former Care Council for Wales Board member. Enough said.

Donna Hutton. A former UNISON rep with responsibility for the social care sector. So she’ll have been dispensing advice to any social care professionals who have ever been in hot water because of, for example, abusing or neglecting clients. Considering how infrequently social care professionals are removed under these circumstances, Donna has obviously done a very good job on their behalf. Donna has also been a Brownie leader. Yes, honestly.

Emma Britton. A ‘qualified independent social worker’ with ‘personal experience of the social care system as a service user’. She may be someone very worthwhile or she may simply be yet another tame service user who’s going to tick all the boxes whilst clients suffer horribly.

Grace Quantock. Rescues puppies. A volunteer with MIND, and Cruse, founder of ‘Healing Boxes CIC’, Trailblazing Wellness (Un) Ltd’, is training as a psychotherapeutic counsellor, also a meditation teacher and teacher of mindful movement. I think that Social Care Wales have surpassed themselves with this particular appointment.

Joanne Kember. A pharmacist from north Wales. The jury’s out on Joanne, some of the pharmacists were a lot better than the doctors in north Wales but some of them were every bit as mediocre and just as much in denial as to the reality of the ‘healthcare’ being provided.

Jane Moore. Forty years experience of working in local authority children’s services. Worked at senior manager level. Recently specialised in looked after children. Oh God.

Kate Hawkins. Care Council for Wales Board member. Another one.

Peter Max. Formerly an accountant, now the Director of an organisation providing community care to people with a mental health (surely he means ‘illness’) diagnosis. links with voluntary sector, Welsh Govt’s Dept of Health and Social Services, the NHS and National Mental Health Partnership. Does not sound too hopeful.

Rhian Watcyn Jones. Former Board member of Care Council for Wales. Yet another one.

Simon Burch. Former Director of Social Services for Monmouthshire and Member of Independent Safeguarding Board. OK…

So the Board of the brand new body that has replaced the catastrophe that was Rhian Huws-Williams is largely made up of people from the previous regime, along with a Brownie leader and a woman who rescues puppies and is Chaired by a man who helped ensure that Jimmy Savile’s activities were never brought into the public domain until he was safely dead and buried. Somehow I don’t rate their chances of taking on the organised crime that now pervades the welfare services too highly. But we’ll never hear about it when they foul up because we’ve got the man from the BBC at the helm to do a bit of media management… And if anyone’s pinning their hopes on a breath of fresh air from the senior management team they’re going to be bitterly disappointed – they’re a load of recycled dross from the NHS and social care system.