Abuse case man given child care job

Government's 'at-risk' file fails
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The Independent Online
At least one of the 22 people named in connection with alleged cases of child abuse in the north London borough of Islington is currently employed in child care in another local authority, it emerged yesterday.

The disclosure came after the Independent revealed that legal and administrative barriers were preventing councils from checking whether they have any of the former Islington employees on their books.

The man's continued employment emerged after a council called in a private vetting agency to check his background and credentials when it realised he was one of those listed in a confidential annexe to last May's White report on child abuse in Islington children's homes. The report accused the council of allowing "political correctness" to prevent it properly investigating cases of alleged abuse stretching back to 1982. As a result, it is not known whether the staff are guilty or innocent.

Michael Hames, managing director of Faircheck said yesterday the agency had vetted the employee, but could provide no further details because the council has not yet completed its investigations.

The case highlights the risk that others named in the report are still working with children.

The disclosure came as Islington moved to break the legal logjam which has prevented other councils checking whether they have former employees of the borough on their books.

On legal advice, Islington has decided it is unable to circulate the White report annexe. But yesterday Hannah Miller, Islington's director of social services, offered to check against it the names of all social services staff in the UK.

A spokesman for the borough said: "We are prepared to go through other councils' entire staffing list if need be" - a measure that could involve checking more than 40,000 names.

Other social services directors welcomed the move, seeing it as restitution for Islington's failure to tackle the cases properly in the first place.

But the London borough is privately furious that the Department of Health has abdicated any responsibility itself for undertaking the checks in what has become a national problem.

Social services directors and MPs were yesterday demanding that the department rethink the way it runs its central index of people considered unsuitable for employment in child care.

The department will not circulate names on the index for fear of actions for libel and defamation, and it will only put names on once it has written to the staff concerned to give them a chance to respond.

To date, only four of the 22 Islington names are on the index - the department arguing that the abuse allegations have not been proved and much of the information is "anecdotal".

Tessa Jowell, a Labour health spokeswoman, said the index "clearly needs a major revision and review. The present situation is simply ludicrous".

Ian White, author of the Islington report and Director of Social Services in Oxfordshire, joined calls for a revamp. Local authorities varied widely in their interpretation of the criteria used to put names on the list, he said. Some sent in only the names of staff who had been disciplined. Others forwarded those about whom they had merely suspicions. Once the use of the register was clearer, he hoped the health department could use it more actively, rather than acting merely as a "referral agency".

Mr White welcomed Islington's move yesterday, while warning that employment agencies remain "a black hole" in the defences against paedophiles working in child care.

Norman Warner, who headed a 1992 Government inquiry that covered the recruitment of child care staff, said he believed the Islington names should be circulated.

The former Kent social services director said: "The bottom line here is that there is a conflict of interest between the needs of the staff and those of the children - and the needs of the children come first. That is the over-riding principle on which social services departments should be run."

'Black hole', page 2

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