Wales

Girl at serious risk of harm in council care, mother says

Anon shot of girl

A woman has called for an investigation into the treatment of her daughter by the council that took her into care.

She said her daughter had 17 placements in four years and had not attended school regularly for two years.

She also had to wait five months for counselling after being identified as at "risk of sexual exploitation".

The council said the girl is now in a therapeutic residential unit with access to education and a psychologist.

The family and the council cannot be named for legal reasons.

The teenager was taken into care when she was in primary school because her mother could not cope with her challenging behaviour.

Her mother was never accused of neglecting or abusing her.

However, she said instead of being better protected in care, her daughter was at serious risk of harm because of the number of different foster placements she has had.

'Worry'

The girl is now drinking, using cannabis, has been caught shoplifting and is at risk of sexual exploitation online and in the community, her mother added.

She told BBC Wales' Week In Week Out programme: "It should never have got to this stage, she's had so many moves, how is that OK?

"My daughter hasn't got a future unless we can get the right help for her now.

"Who is going to help and save her? That's my worry."

The council involved said it was a particularly challenging case because of the child's non-engagement and it said it was continuing to address the issue.

Staff were unaware the girl had taken drugs but believed her risk-taking behaviour had reduced, it added.

It admitted there was a delay in providing specialist counselling but said the risk of sexual exploitation had reduced now she was in a more secure setting.

A spokesman said: "We are satisfied that all procedures and protocols have been followed correctly."

'Crucial support'

Children's Commissioner for Wales, Dr Sally Holland, would not comment on this particular case but said there was a lack of therapeutic placements for children in care who needed specialist support.

She said she had raised it twice with the Welsh Government.

"I was talking to a social services head last week, who said to me they were particularly concerned about one child, they really needed to find a safe place for her to live as she was coming out of hospital and they approached 100 different providers before they found somewhere safe for her.

"That's the kind of situation that the local authorities are in."

Dr Holland said there were not enough services to help children recover from sexual exploitation - support for victims is funded by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) through police and crime commissioners.

An MoJ spokesman said: "We are committed to making sure that victims of crime get the support they need to cope with and, where possible, recover from crime.

"That is why we are allocating funding of £95m in 2017-18 for crucial support services."

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said improving the life chances for looked-after children was a key priority.

She added that councils had a legal duty to ensure there were enough placements to meet the needs of children in care and they must minimise disruption to the child's education.

"We recognise, however, there are particular challenges to finding an appropriate placement for a child who has complex needs or who needs a particular type of therapeutic support."

She said the Welsh Government was working with councils and other agencies on a national fostering framework to be implemented over the next year.

  • Week In Week Out: I Thought My Child Would Be Safe - BBC One Wales, 22:40 BST, 4 April

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