Director rewrote reports on teenage sex at council home (30.10.86)

Community Care, 30th October 1986


1 comment
  1. Kate MacDonald said:



    A former director of social services in the London Borough of Southwark has been strongly criticised for covering up a report into the alarming activities of teenage residents in a council-run home.
    An independent report into activities at Hollyshaw House in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, which was released last week, confirmed a number of allegations concerning the sexual activities of the teenage residents.
    But members of Southwark’s social services committee remained unaware of the activities, which occurred between September 1983 and April 1984, because the director at the time, John Briggs, had reports rewritten to remove all reference to the claims.
    The report found Briggs, who retired in 1984, took the decision even though senior officers believed the council should be told.
    Even when the home was closed in October 1984, officers were still kept in the dark over the real reasons for its closure.
    The three-man inquiry team confirmed a number of claims which had been leaked to the press in May last year. These included:
    – sexual and abnormal behaviour patterns of some residents, were known but not discussed at case conference level;
    – bullying of younger residents by older residents;
    – intimidation and verbal abuse of staff;
    – a senior staff member with an alcohol problem remained in her position.
    The panel also criticised staffing, saying there had been few attempts to equip staff with the skills essential to running the home.
    The absence of comprehensive training plans and no effective staff appraisal system were also highlighted as contributing to an “inappropriate style of operation”.
    A number of recommendations included in the report, covered future care plans, staff training, performance appraisal, communication and alternative restructuring of the department.
    Southwark’s present director, Dennis Simpson, warned in a separate report presented to a meeting of the social services committee last Friday that the recommendations would have very clear implications which would have to be investigated.
    A number of the recommendations had already been implemented and proposals for restructuring the department had been agreed.
    He found the overriding impression of the report was that staff were ill-equipped and unprepared to deal with a changing population of residents.
    “It is a situation experienced in a number of Southwark homes. This is not to condone unacceptable behaviour, but it represents a challenge management has to accept and to which is has to adjust,” he said.
    The report was described by social services committee chairman Tony Goss, as “strong medicine, but one that officers and members had to swallow”.
    “Clearly in this case there were errors of judgement which led to a marked lack of proper supervision and guidance,” he said.
    But Goss said lessons learned from the report had led to the development of a child care strategy that would ensure the council provided a high standard of care.
    No disciplinary action will be taken by the council, but members agreed the criticisms of management and management systems needed further consideration.
    A working party is to be set up to report back to committee within two months.
    Community Care was unsuccessful in its attempts to contact Briggs for comment on the report.
    The panel of inquiry consisted of Timothy Ryland, recorder of the crown court (chairman): Geoffrey Dunn, former director at Barnsley: and Brian Blackler, former director of personnel and secretariat, Hackney.

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