Norfolk

Norfolk County Council staff suspended over fraud

County Hall, home of Norfolk County Council, Norwich
Image caption Interim director Sheila Lock told the BBC there was something "fundamentally wrong" with the department

Nineteen children's services workers have been suspended for offences including fraud and breach of trust.

The Norfolk County Council department, rated as inadequate by Ofsted, has been criticised by foster parents over claims it wrongly removed children.

Disciplinary action against staff was revealed in March but the council did not disclose the reasons for it.

The council said it had set up an independent review to look into children's services.

After a BBC Freedom of Information request, the county council provided a breakdown.

Three were suspended for fraud, 10 for inappropriate conduct and behaviour, one for breach of trust and confidence, two for data protection breaches and three for conflict of interest.

'Fundamentally wrong'

Of those suspended, three were dismissed, four left the authority voluntarily, six were disciplined, five faced no further action and one case is still being investigated.

The three dismissals were for a data protection breach, inappropriate conduct and for conflict of interest.

The Freedom of Information request also showed why nine agency workers were asked to leave by the council over the last two years.

Two were due to attendance issues, three due to their behaviour and four for performance problems.

Interim director Sheila Lock, who took over in August 2013, told the BBC in March there was something "fundamentally wrong" with the department.

An independent review is under way, led by Ian Parker, a former Middlesbrough Council chief executive.

The council, which employs about 675 front-line care staff and has about 1,000 children in care, has been under fire over its treatment of foster carers.

Ms Lock said in March: "We didn't get into this place without things being fundamentally wrong. Some of that is leadership and discipline.

"Over the last 18 months we have really had to drill down to people that they have individual responsibility and service accountability to get it right."

Ms Lock said she was keen not to get into a "culture of blame" and then find you "can't recruit people".

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