Social services shake up follows abuse controversy

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A major review of Wales's biggest social services department has been launched following allegations - including abuse, claims of child prostitution and mismanagement - that have seen three senior members of staff suspended.

Cardiff County Council has been dogged by controversy since taking over from the former South Glamorgan authority during local government reorganisation last April.

In that time, a former care worker has been jailed for abusing children in his charge, a lorry driver who abducted girls from a home in the city has been jailed, police are investigating alleged abuse at the former Taff Vale home, a care worker has been disciplined for not following procedures when a 13-year-old girl went missing, and a young man has started legal action after allegedly contracting HIV in care.

There have also been complaints about management practice and the council is accused of trying to gag Karen McKay, a care worker, who spoke out about problems.

Now, the authority has decided to hold what is described as a fundamental review of social services which will be subjected to external scrutiny.

A separate inquiry panel, chaired by a lawyer, will look into the allegations about management practice, but will not investigate abuse claims surrounding the now closed Taff Vale home. Detectives are trying to trace more than 400 former residents and staff there.

The suspension of the three senior officers concerned management practices and was unconnected with claims of abuse.

The authority has also devised an 11-point strategy, which includes the introduction of a child care action team to look at children at risk from prostitution, drugs and other crimes. A spokesman for Voices From Care, which looks after the interest of children in care, said: "We welcome the tightening up of rules, but we would point out that significant numbers of young people have faced injustices and in some cases the damage is irreparable."