Liam Fee social work boss admits she kept track of cases ‘in her head’
KAREN Peddar also told how a team meeting descended into chaos after one social worker shouted, ‘I have never worked with such a crowd of bitches’.
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Karen Pedder also told how one team meeting she chaired ended in chaos when a junior social worker shouted: “I have never worked with such a crowd of bitches.”
The evidence was heard at the professional conduct hearing of Liam’s social worker, Lesley Bate at the Scottish Social Services Council conduct sub-committee over her work for the authority between December 2011 and August 2014.
Ms Bate, 60, has “queried the quality of support” she got for the professional stress she claims she suffered while working for Fife Council’s Child Protection Team, based in Glenrothes.
Yesterday Ms Pedder – who also gave evidence in Liam’s murder trial – denied her team was dysfunctional and that there was a bullying culture among her staff – claims made by earlier witnesses.
Asked what type of management systems were in place to keep track of her team’s cases and check the quality of their work, she replied: “It sounds very unusual but I held a lot of information in my head.”
And she added: “It was not a common practice or regular feature to do quality assurance checks of the social workers at that time. It is now.”
Probed on the perceived bullying culture and team’s dysfunction she explained: “Yes, there were different personalities, views and opinions but this is no different to any other environment.
“Bullying was not an issue I evidenced within the team. Bullying is a very strong word and it is perceived differently by different people. There was not a bullying culture within the team.”
She also described the highly charged team meeting in 2012, when a social work assistant shouted “I have never worked with such a crowd of bitches.”
She explained: “It was totally inappropriate and was immediately addressed. There were clear issues and atmospheres within the team but we needed to take a professional responsibility and address the issues as a team.”
She also described her difficult relationship with Ms Bate despite having an “open door policy at all times.”
Ms Pedder said: “Lesley did not bring any of her issues to my attention – she wanted to keep her private life to herself. On one occasion she stormed out the office when I tried to discuss the situation with her. After one review meeting she was referred to occupational health.”
Bate, who has relinquished her social work registration, is facing 13 charges relating to 16 children with whom she was involved over three years.
Two of the charges relate to Liam Fee – identified in SSSC papers only as FF.
Those charges allege that Bate failed to follow up on a referral regarding serious bruising Liam suffered in January 2013, and that she didn’t follow up claims he suffered a neck injury weeks later.
Earlier, an official who investigated Bate’s conduct during her time in the Child Protection Team told a hearing of Bate’s involvement with Liam and his mother and her civil partner Rachel Trelfa and Nyomi Fee.
Tracey Burke told how Liam’s childminder Heather Farmer – referred to at the hearing as HF – had raised concerns in January 2013.
But despite that, and subsequent concerns about a neck injury he suffered weeks later, Ms Bate failed to follow up on the case or make notes relating to it on council computer systems.
Senior social worker Sharon Barr told the hearing how Ms Bate left another child “at risk of harm” by failing to follow up on reports the child’s parents were “living in squalor”.
In another Bate recommended a girl be given back to her mother – who had assaulted her – despite bosses ordering her to change her recommendations ahead of a case conference.
Ms Barr said the team had left a child, identified only as AA, “in a very risky and vulnerable condition” because of Bate’s failures.
She said: “The parents were living in squalor. There were dirty nappies lying around and ingrained dirt.
“There was no record of Lesley Bate carrying out any visits or of tasks being done.
“We had left a child in a very risky and vulnerable condition. No-one was monitoring the situation.”
AA, she said, “fell off the radar” – the exact phrase Karen Pedder used to describe Fife Social Work’s handling of Liam Fee’s case during the murder trial.
The hearing, at the SSSC headquarters in Dundee, continues.
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