Children abused after being placed in care

Falmouth Packet: Picture posed by model Picture posed by model

Ten children have been the victim of abuse or neglect in the last three years while placed in the care of those supposed to look after them.

The findings relate to cases of children in foster care and residential placement, between 2009 and 2012.

During this time there were a total of 67 allegations of abuse or neglect referred to the authorities – ten of which were substantiated.

Five involved abuse or neglect of children in foster care, while the other five were in a residential placement – Cornwall Council establishments, health (primarily disability) establishments and homes owned and operated by regulated independent providers.

As a result of the allegations, 14 children were removed from their foster placements.

Two of these children had made substantiated claims as a result of their care in a foster placement.

Of the remaining 12, three of the allegations were found to be unfounded and nine were unsubstantiated, but still resulted in the removal of the child.

Despite five substantiated allegations, no children were removed from a residential placement during this time period.

Cornwall Council has 270 foster carers, who look after around 500 children in an average year.

A spokesperson for the council said: “All children in care have complex needs and many have challenging behaviour.

“The council takes complaints/allegations against carers very seriously. Of the 67 investigated between 2009 and 2012, 35 related to independent foster carers and children’s home facilities where children have largely been placed in Cornwall by other local authorities, not services provided by Cornwall Council.

“The allegations represent a wide range of issues, the majority of which relate to concerns over the standard of care, with only a very small number involving more serious matters.”

The spokesperson said all allegations are reported to the council’s safeguarding unit and investigated thoroughly.

Reports of the investigations are presented to the independent fostering panel, which then makes a recommendation to the Fostering Decision Maker on the course of action to be taken.

“The majority of allegations made against carers in Cornwall have been unsubstantiated, with a significant number the result of parents either making the allegation themselves or encouraging their children to make such allegations in order to disrupt the placement in the hope that their children will come home.

“Despite this the council takes all allegations very seriously and ensures its procedures are followed throughout. In all these cases the appropriate action has been taken, including in more serious cases such as chastisement, carers being deregistered and referred to the Disclosure Barring Service,” added the spokesperson.

The authority’s fostering service was inspected by Ofsted in February 2012 when inspectors judged the service’s arrangements for helping children to Stay Safe to be good. The whole service was judged as “good with outstanding features.”

Sharon Copsey, NSPCC regional head for the South West, said: “It is wrong to assume all children in care are kept safe. A minority are at continued risk of abuse or neglect, including from their carers, other young people and those in the wider community who target them.

“Children in care who call ChildLine tell us that they continue to feel vulnerable and isolated, leaving them at risk of harm. For some, care will not compensate for the harm they have already suffered, and for others the care experience compounds that harm.

“Better support is needed to help these young people overcome the effects of the abuse and neglect they have suffered, and to enable them to realise their potential. Care must provide effective therapeutic support for children and young people and protect them from current and future harm.”

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