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Child abuse in local authority care

This advice applies to Wales

You may be concerned that a child in local authority care is being abused. Or you’re an adult who, when you were a child, was abused in local authority care. This page gives advice about what to do in these situations.

Child abuse and local authority care

Child abuse might happen while a child is or was being looked after by the local authority.  Examples could include

  • a child is being abused while living with a foster carer
  • a child is being abused while living in a children's home or residential school. This could be abuse by a member of staff, or abuse by someone else, including another child. The child could also be at risk of sexual exploitation by people outside the home or school
  • a worker in a children's home or residential school suspects that children are being abused
  • the parents of a child who is in a children's home or residential school suspect that the child is being abused.

The local authority child protection procedures will apply to a child even if they are being abused while being looked after by the local authority. However an independent organisation will almost certainly be involved in the investigation.

Foster care

A child may be living with foster carers because there’s a care order for them. A child may be living with foster carers because there’s a care order for them. In this case, the local authority shares legal responsibility for the child with their parents (this is called parental responsibility) and you, as a parent, can’t take the child away from the foster carers. . If you suspect that your child is being abused, you should discuss the matter with your social worker. If this doesn’t stop the abuse, you could go to the police or get legal advice about taking court action, for example, an application to stop the care order.

The child may be living with foster carers because they are being accommodated by the local authority. The local authority has no parental responsibility for the child and you, as the parent, have the right to remove the child from the foster carers if you suspect the child is being abused. However, before doing this, you should talk to you social worker about what is happening because:

  • if the local authority disagrees with the decision to remove the child, they may, in some circumstances, apply for a care order
  • you will probably want to prevent other children being abused by the foster carers.

Even if you can’t look after the child yourself, you could remove the child from the foster carer and ask the local authority to provide other accommodation for the child. If you’re a parent in this situation, get advice from a solicitor or specialist organisation.

Children in a children's home or residential school

If a child is being accommodated by the local authority in a children's home or residential school, the local authority has no parental responsibility for the child and you, as the parent, have the right to remove the child from the home or school.

If a child is living in a children's home or residential school because there is a care order and the child is being abused, you as the parent can’t remove the child, as the local authority shares parental responsibility for the child.

In both these cases, you should talk to your social worker about your concerns. Each child should also have an independent reviewing officer (IRO) and you could contact them with any concerns if you can’t talk to your social worker.

If you’re a worker in a children's home or residential school and you’re concerned that a child is being abused by someone else, you should report the matter to your line manager or the child's social worker or a more senior manager. If you have done this and you feel the child is still not being protected, check if your employer has a policy about reporting concerns (a whistleblowing policy) and follow this. You could raise your concerns with:

  • a specialist organisation like the NSPCC
  • the police
  • your union if you’re a member. Most unions can give advice about whistleblowing if you have concerns at work
  • the regulatory body for your profession, for example, if you are a social worker in England, this is Health and Care Professionals Council. Their website is: http://www.hpc-uk.org
  • Public Concern at Work. This is an organisation which provides free legal advice to employees who are worried about malpractice at work. You can find their  whistleblowing helpline number on their website at: www.pcaw.co.uk.

Adults who were abused in children's homes

If you’re an adult who was abused in the past in a children's home or residential school, you may want to report the matter to the local authority or the police. This may be because the person responsible may still work for the local authority and may be abusing other children in their charge. You might also want to consider:

  • taking court action against the local authority.
  • contacting a specialist organisation for support.

Giving evidence to an enquiry

There have been several well publicised enquiries into abuse in children's homes, for example, a public enquiry into abuse into children's homes in North Wales and parts of England where it is alleged that many children were abused over a period of many years.

If you want to give evidence to an enquiry like this, or if you want to make contact with other survivors who may take legal action, you should contact the local authority concerned, or the police dealing with the investigation or any solicitor known to be representing other survivors. You could also contact a specialist organisation for support.

Complaints

If you contact the local authority about any of the examples of child abuse given above and they don’t investigate properly, you might want to make a complaint or to take legal action against them.  It would be helpful to get specialist advice about your options.

Next steps

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