Social workers come under fire for failures over sex abuse foster father

SOCIAL workers repeatedly failed properly to assess or monitor a Yorkshire foster father who subjected three vulnerable young girls in his care to years of sexual abuse.

Council bosses have apologised after a review of the harrowing case of Rotherham paedophile Kenneth Morton revealed a catalogue of failures, with social workers and a doctor missing "warning signs" which "should have been identified and acted on" including the foster father's heavy drinking and "oppressive parenting style".

Morton, a 58-year-old grandfather from Greasborough, Rotherham, was jailed for 12 years in June 2008 for a string of serious sexual assaults carried out over the five years against three girls, aged 11 to 13, who were placed in his and his wife's care by Rotherham Council.

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The serious case review published this week by Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board is the latest in a series of reports to highlight failings in children's care services in Yorkshire. Earlier this month Children's Secretary Ed Balls pledged an extra 23m towards front-line social care following a string of cases.

The review states while "there were no signs of sexual abuse" by Morton, other issues such as his heavy drinking – a key factor in his offending according to his own defence lawyer – should have been picked up on.

"Had the (council's) Fostering Panel been made aware of (Morton's) level of alcohol consumption in June 2004, it is expected the approval of (the Mortons) as foster carers would have been suspended pending further investigation," the report states.

Morton's GP is singled out for blame, having "compromised the safety of the children" for neither carrying out a risk assessment of Morton's alcohol abuse nor referring the matter to social services.

Council working practices are also criticised, with home visits and reviews by social workers having taken place irregularly. Children were not interviewed in private, and their comments not properly recorded.

It also concludes Morton's "oppressive parenting style" was "not challenged sufficiently" and highlights "a lack of scrutiny and challenge of a number of issues" by council staff.

This year has already seen a number of hard-hitting reports into care services in parts of Yorkshire. Sheffield Council was forced to apologise earlier this month after failing to prevent a man dubbed the "Yorkshire Fritzl" from raping and abusing his own daughters for decades.

Rotherham's fostering service came under fire last year following the death of Chelsey Essex, a three-month old baby who died with 13 broken ribs. A review found Rotherham's fostering service was "overstretched" and had made an "inappropriate" decision.

Rotherham Council said last night it has made changes to working practices and apologised for any mistakes made.

Local Safeguarding Children Board chairman Alan Hazell said: "The monitoring of care was not robust enough, and for that, all the agencies involved apologise."

Despite the criticisms contained in the report, no Rotherham Council staff have been disciplined.