Child sex inquiry blames care staff: Parents not given early warning of paedophile

SOCIAL SERVICES failed to warn parents early enough of a paedophile preying on young children at nursery schools, a report said yesterday.

Jason Dabbs, 21, was jailed for seven years for indecently assaulting more than 60 three- and four- year-olds at nurseries where he worked as a trainee. Although rumours of child abuse started to spread among parents, they were not officially informed until five weeks after Dabbs's suspension.

Marriages were wrecked and children are still suffering psychological problems because of the delay, parents said after publication of an inquiry report drawn up for Newcastle upon Tyne City Council. The document criticised agencies which should have helped the victims and their families with support and counselling.

The report by Peter Hunt, a barrister who carried out a four- month investigation, said: 'The lack of any communication from any authority compounded the distress. The root of this anxiety was natural parental concern to know whether the harm which was gradually understood to have been inflicted had also occurred to other individual children.'

Poor organisation and management by social services meant they failed to recognise the crisis. The police also widened their investigation by interviewing the families of other children without telling social services.

The report said there was nothing in Dabbs's background which could have warned anyone about his personality. It did not apportion blame, but made 31 recommendations to improve screening and training of staff.

Some parents are considering legal action. Tony Flynn, acting leader of the council, said: 'We understand the anger felt by parents at the events which occurred and at how agencies responded to them.' He added that the recommendations were likely to be adopted and the council had tightened up some procedures.

Doug Henderson, Labour MP for Newcastle North, called for three recommendations, which had relevance throughout the country, to be implemented immediately. 'Training should be provided for all staff in schools to assist them to recognise initial signs of child abuse. Secondly, recruitment procedures should be tightened to involve police reports on staff for sensitive jobs like child caring. And a national library of social services' experience should be compiled to ensure that any local authority facing a similar situation can seek assistance.'

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