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(Magistrate's Court of the Falkland Islands, CJ Gumsley, Senior Magistrate)
When the child and her parents moved to the Falkland Islands in 2012 the child was unable to live with her parents and so was placed under a private fostering arrangement although formal checks were not carried out. During the placement she witnessed sexual abuse of one of the children of the family by a man who was permitted to share a bedroom with them.
The child was removed from the placement and placed with other friends of the parents again without adequate checks and assessments being carried out and without adequate support despite having witnessed abusive behaviour.
During care proceedings in relation to the children of the family where the child was originally placed, assurances were given to the court that the child was being supported by social services, but it was now clear she was effectively ignored. The guardian recommended wardship proceedings.
The failure of social services to deal with the child's situation and even to ask the most basic of questions was reprehensible and led to considerable delay which had certainly caused harm to the child. The failures were down to a lack of direction from management and a failure within the system as a whole. It was a failure to recognise and appreciate what good social work practice required, and what experienced legal knowledge would have regarded as obvious.
The proposal was for the child to return to live with her parents who had now secured accommodation. Given the concerns raised by the case, it was clear that the parents needed assistance in their apparent lack of basic understanding of the risk of sexual predators. Drastic improvements had now been made to the operation of social services on the Falkland Islands and the judge was reassured that offers of support would be followed through.
Given the potential for problems in the family reconciliation a 6-month family assistance order was granted.