UK & World News
Child Safety: 181 Workers Sacked By Councils
More than 180 teachers, social workers and other council staff were sacked last year after being judged to be a risk to children, a Sky News investigation has found.
In 2012/13 some 3,651 local authority workers were investigated over allegations they had either harmed or abused children or were unsuitable to work with them, figures show.
The statistics - obtained following Freedom of Information requests to councils in England and Wales - show that 695 of those local authority probes were then investigated by police.
A total of 181 staff were subsequently sacked, according to council replies. Experts said it was the first time the total number of dismissals for such offences had been compiled.
The highest number of dismissals were in Westminster and Brighton and Hove, which each sacked 11 staff following complaints about them.
Lewisham Council in south London sacked 10 workers.
One investigating officer said the number of investigations showed that victims of abuse or poor care are finding it easier to make complaints.
Laura Eden, a Local Authority Designated Officer for one council, which we have agreed not to name, told Sky News: "It's good that people are referring professionals that they are concerned about.
"There used to be a time when you had a professional working in your organisation and you didn't feel something was right, or a child made an allegation against them, there were no procedures to deal with that. So it's really important that there are procedures in place, and those procedures are followed."
But there were warnings that many complaints are still being ignored.
One former teacher, who does not want to be named, told Sky News she was hounded out of her job after raising concerns about a colleague.
She said: "I expected it obviously to be investigated, and if it was proven to be founded then obviously the appropriate action taken, because these are the kind of behaviours that should not be in the classroom.
"I was told that the member of staff in question had admitted having been involved in the incident described by the pupil, but that there wasn't going to be any further action taken because everyone makes mistakes."
Samantha Robson, a child protection lawyer working for firm Slee Blackwell, said cases were still slipping through the net.
"It's very rare people get away with it completely unnoticed," she said. "But unless those complaints are taken seriously or get heard by the right voice, then they're not acted upon. And that's the problem as I see it."
One of the most disturbing cases of recent years is that of primary school teacher Nigel Leat.
He was jailed indefinitely after being found guilty of sexually abusing children in his class at Hillside first school in Weston-super-Mare over a period of 14 years, despite concerns being raised 30 times. He made hundreds of videos of his abuse.
In her first television interview, the mother of one of his victims said: "He spent from the September to the December gaining her trust, and teaching her what to do with the abuse.
"This would also be in front of other children around the table. But because how he filmed it was he put the laptop on a low stool, it would be filmed underneath the table and all the children would be sat around but they wouldn't see it because the table was covering everything.
"How can this happen, how can a teacher do this, who as a parent that's the next person you trust your children with because they are there all day every day and this person, the teacher, Nigel Leat was amazing. He was so friendly. He would always tell me what a really good girl she'd been today. She'd done everything he's asked."
Francesca West, of Public Concern at Work which runs a whistleblowing helpline, told Sky News that the number of calls they have had from the education sector has jumped almost two thirds in a single year.
"I am very worried that education is the next tragedy waiting to happen, and as with all whistleblowing, the real tragedy is no-one listens until it is too late," she said.
"We are concerned that this is a bit of a ticking time bomb."
Nevres Kemal, a whistleblower in the Haringey "Baby P" case, told Sky News: "It's like a death sentence. You don't know until you are in it.
"We recently set up a website www.rmvf.org so that people can come to us and talk about their experiences and we can provide emotional and practical support, because as a whistleblower you are totally alone and isolated. It often feels like everyone is against you."
The new figures follow a Sky News investigation which found that up to one in 20 of all children in some parts of the country have been the subject of investigations into whether they are the victims of abuse or neglect.
In 2012/13, English councils launched 127,060 high level investigations - known as section 47s - into children thought to be at risk, analysis of official figures shows.
That is the equivalent of one in a hundred of the country's entire population of under-18s and represents a 42.3% increase in cases since 2009/10.
In some areas the figure is much higher with the equivalent of 4.5% of children in Blackpool, 2.6% in Doncaster and 2.1% in Peterborough being investigated.
Westminster City Council's operational director of children's services James Thomas said their figure includes those not directly employed by the council.
He said: "The number of dismissals from Westminster City Council is four. The other seven dismissals were independent from the council, with staff employed by a variety of different agencies, including early years providers and academies.
"We have a dedicated Local Authority Designated Officer who works closely with all agencies. This results in higher referral rates than some of our counterparts."
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