Social worker sacked after teen died gets five-figure sum

Poppy Bracey
Poppy Bracey
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A SOCIAL worker who was sacked following the tragic death of a troubled teen has won a five-figure pay-out from Wigan Council.

Whistleblower Ciaran Kennedy said “social worker X” was made a scapegoat following the death by hanging of Poppy Bracey in 2010, despite “wider systemic failings”.

Social worker X was accused of losing a key file on the youngster which some argued could have led to an intervention which saved her life.

He hotly disputed this and has now been awarded a substantial pay-out by Wigan Council after it agreed to a settlement part-way through an employment tribunal in Manchester.

But Town Hall bosses have defended their handling of the case and insist the money was “absolutely not” an admission of fault.

Mr Kennedy, an ex-colleague of social worker X, told how, in early 2010, a referral, issued after reports that 13-year-old Poppy had taken a knife into school, had wrongly been classed as “urgent” rather than “emergency” – and the file was then lost.

He said: “According to the guidelines, with an urgent referral it is not necessary to see a child within 24 hours and you must first get parental consent. Emergency referrals, on the other hand, must be responded to within 24 hours.

“If it was an emergency, Poppy should have been taken to hospital or to a place of safety there and then.” Tragic Poppy was found hanged a month later on March 1, 2010. A coroner subsequently ruled that her death was accidental.

But Mr Kennedy said Poppy’s case had been closed on the computer

system a week after it had been received – three weeks before the Lowton High School pupil died – and that this action “could not have been taken by social worker X”.

Social worker X, who worked for the borough’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), was then suspended from duty in January 2011 following an internal hearing.

He faced nine allegations – including failing in his duties and bringing the council into disrepute – and was dismissed for gross misconduct following a disciplinary hearing on October 17, 2011.

In a subsequent appeal, social worker X claimed he had been “unfairly singled out” for criticism despite his blemish-free record and argued that the then head of service, Marlyn Banham – who had penned his dismissal letter – was in no position to make an objective judgment on him at appeal.

But his dismissal stood and, more than two years on, the dispute went to an employment tribunal.

On the second day of the hearing Wigan Council agreed to pay an out of court settlement to social worker X – but without accepting liability.

Mr Kennedy, who has indicated his willingness to discuss the circumstances of the case with Town Hall bosses, added: “Social worker X is happy with the award but the likelihood of him now getting a job in the area in which he lives is next to zero. This has hugely damaged his reputation.”

Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall said: “We take our responsibilities to protect children and young people incredibly seriously, which is why action was taken against this former employee.

“We reached an out of court settlement with the individual during an employment tribunal. However, the settlement was absolutely not an admission of fault on our behalf. We stand by our decision to dismiss this individual for gross misconduct. His claims against us are unsubstantiated.

“For legal reasons, we are unable to discuss further why we settled in this case. The ex-employee is bound by the same legal restrictions. He has now broken these restrictions and as such we will be seeking legal advice.”