Letter: In care in Buckinghamshire

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From Mrs A. R. Bainbridge

Sir: I should be grateful if you would allow me to comment on your February 13 report that the Buckinghamshire social services department attempted to cover up an allegation of a rape by two boys at the home by sending them on "a touring holiday at taxpayers' expense". This matter was first reported to social workers at the home in October last year, some time after the alleged rape was said to have happened. In accordance with established practice, it was decided to separate the alleged victim from the alleged perpetrators by removing the boys from the home. This decision was to allow an investigation to take place. Social workers recognised that there might be other matters to be investigated concerning other residents and that another girl might also wish to be interviewed.

It proved impossible that day (a Thursday) to find suitable alternative local authority accommodation within Buckinghamshire, so the boys were placed in temporary bed and breakfast accommodation over night, under the supervision of social workers. Our records show that on the following day (Friday) no fewer than 17 telephone calls were made in an effort to find suitable care accommodation outside the county, but none could be offered until after the weekend, so the bed and breakfast arrangement had to be continued.

This was not the "touring holiday" you allege. Had suitable care accommodation become available, it would have been taken up. While I do accept that an internal memorandum on the subject uses the words "holiday bed and breakfast accommodation", it does so in a context that clearly indicates the type of accommodation referred to rather than the reason the boys were being taken to it.

The key issue is the Independent's allegation that the boy's removal from the home was part of a cover-up. It wasn't. The police accept, and have said so in writing to us, that the removal was consistent with procedures involved in the investigation of sex offences. It is accepted by the police that social services staff were aware of their obligation to produce the boys should the need have arisen.

Buckinghamshire County Council takes seriously its duties towards the often very damaged young people who come into its care and, equally, it is very well aware of its duties towards the police.

Yours sincerely,

AUDREY BAINBRIDGE

Chairman

Social Services Committee

Buckinghamshire County Council

Aylesbury

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