SCOTLAND’S social care watchdog has been accused of failing a victim of historic child abuse amid weak attempts to investigate his case.
When 48-year-old Richard Tracey asked the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) to take action against the worker who left him to be abused in care 35 years ago, it deliberated for a year before telling him it would not act against the man – who is still working.
The SSSC said it would not only have to prove Hugh Quinn did not protect Mr Tracey, but also that his actions “fell short of the standard expected” of social workers at the time.
The Dundee-based watchdog said:
“We have been unable to obtain any polices or procedures that were in place at Strathclyde Regional Council during the period in question.”
However, research by The Herald has found otherwise.
A phone call and visit to the City Archives at Glasgow’s Mitchell Library, were all it took to view a series of documents setting out the standards required of social work in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mr Tracey said he and other abuse survivors had been routinely misled and deceived by public bodies.
“The SSSC should be hanging their heads in shame that you were able to find so quickly what they didn’t want to find,” he said.
“They don’t appear to have looked at the evidence,” she said.
“Their response feels dismissive as if they have put this in a box marked ‘too hard’. But if it is not their job, then whose is it?”
Dropping Mr Tracey’s complaint, earlier this month, SSSC solicitor Iain Martin said:
“We are unable to prove what standard Mr Quinn should have met and cannot establish that any action he did take… fell below what any other social worker might have done in the same situation.”
But Strathclyde Regional Council’s social work policies manual for 1977 was current in the early 1980s when his social work records note Mr Tracey was being “leathered” and regularly beaten by his foster father, running away from home and regularly expressing distress.
It states that if children suffer non-accidental injury social workers must interview their parents or other carers, visit the child and record any injuries, and ensure they are checked over at hospital if necessary.
They should consider whether the child needs to be taken to a place of safety and, if the child is still in the family home, decide whether it is safe for the child to remain there.
“Child abuse – The manual of procedures for staff in the social work department, Strathclyde Regional Council”
was published in March 1983, when Mr Tracey was regularly running away and cutting himself because he was unhappy at home.
The council’s policies set out rules in cases where child abuse is suspected, such as the need to consider a place of safety order, alerting the police and the need for a child abuse case conference.
The document explicitly reminds social workers:
“It must be remembered that child abuse can occur not only to children in their own homes but also… in substitute care.
“The same degree of diligence must be applied in all cases.”
It says any deviation from the guidelines must be justified fully and countersigned by a senior manager. Many of these rules appear to have been regularly ignored in Mr Tracey’s case.
An SSSC spokesperson said the earliest child abuse procedures it had been able to obtain were for 1989.
“We were advised that this was the earliest version available. We were not aware that the documents were in the Mitchell Library archive and will now take steps to recover and review them.”