Social Services Fail To Spot Paedophile

Norfolk County Council's social services department has been accused of placing a child at risk by failing to prevent a convicted paedophile having unrestricted access to a five-year-old girl.

Socials workers knew the man, who had recently served five years in prison, had been allowed to care for the vulnerable girl alone but failed to warn the mother about his history.

Minutes seen by the Press Association show the girl sat on the paedophile's lap in the presence of a social worker on April 10 last year - two weeks before police were forced to intervene after he disappeared with her.

The allegation is the latest to hit Norfolk Children's Services after Ofsted raised concerns about child protection in the county. A senior Government social work adviser who worked on the Baby P case has been drafted in to help turn the department around.

The case came to light after MPs and foster carers called for an investigation into claims the department has wrongly removed dozens of children from their carers.

The mother, who lived in Great Yarmouth at the time, said: "They failed me, they put my daughter at risk and I want some kind of justice.''

The paedophile - whose crimes were described as "lamentable'' by a judge - was placed on the sex offenders register for life in 2008 for attacks on girls as young as seven spanning two decades.

He re-established contact with the mother, who he was related to but had not seen for decades, in February last year.

She insists she had no knowledge of his abuse and he initially seemed to be playing a positive role in the family's life.

The woman alleges the man sexually assaulted her on April 25 before taking her daughter on a shopping trip alone. She phoned social services and was told to call the police immediately.

Officers tracked him down after about an hour and established the girl had not been harmed. Two days after this incident, social workers revealed his history of abuse and claimed the mother must have been aware.

A council spokesman said that the girl was not subject to a child protection plan at the time, although documents show she was classed as a less serious "child in need''.

He added: "It is disappointing that when he was present during a meeting at the mother's home, we didn't put two and two together and realise that he was a convicted paedophile.

"No concerns were raised about him by the mother or anyone else at that meeting, and it was not thought necessary to check the background of a visitor.

"Once the level of risk became clear we acted quickly to ensure the child's safety. Fortunately, we have no reason to believe that the girl was harmed during the time he was with the family.''

The social worker involved has since left their job.

The girl was initially taken into temporary care then never returned as social workers claim the mother should have known about the risk.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, is seeking new legal representation to reopen the case. Police are investigating her claims of sexual assault.

She said: "They all knew he was in our lives because I was over moon and telling everybody.

"They're supposed to check on anybody who comes into my life and has access to my daughter - at no point did they tell me he was a sex offender or warn me about him.

"When they intervened, it was too late and I feel very lucky my daughter wasn't harmed.

"I've lost my daughter and I don't want this to happen to other mothers.''

In a separate case, one of the department's team managers has been suspended over allegations he removed a child from a foster carer without evidence of deliberate harm.

The Norfolk Foster Carers' Association (NFCA) said it had been contacted by dozens of parents and foster parents making similar claims.

West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said they had been contacted by people in similar positions and suspected it was not an isolated case.

Norfolk County Council said it was aware of concerns which are being "investigated thoroughly and carefully''.

The council last week announced that troubleshooter Mark Gurrey - who was parachuted into Haringey Council after the death of Baby P - had been appointed to work with existing managers and the Department of Education to help improve services.

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