Social worker sacked after police find neglected boy in padlocked room

James Ballantyne didn't report the padlock which meant there was a risk to life if there had been a fire in the home.

A social worker has been sacked after his repeated failures led to police finding a boy locked in his room neglected and at risk of physical, emotional and psychological harm.

James Ballantyne was removed from the register for social workers after being found to have made multiple errors in the case of a vulnerable child.

Ballantyne, who was employed by Renfrewshire Council in Paisley, failed to report a lock with a padlock fixed to the outside of the child’s bedroom in a home he had visited.

An investigation by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) found there was a “risk to life” if a fire occurred within the property.

The watchdog also expressed concerns that the boy would be unable to freely walk around his own home.

But these issues were not raised by Ballantyne, and between June of 2019 and May 2020 he failed to return to the property on a regular basis.

The young boy was later found by police “in a state of neglect and at risk of physical and emotional harm”.

‘Failures exposed boy to significant risk of physical and emotional harm’

The SSSC said Ballantyne knew the risk of harm exposed to the unnamed child – which it referred to as “AA” in its report – but that he failed to act.

“This failure exposed AA to significant risk of physical and emotional harm,” the investigation found.

The SSSC report continued: “Your behaviour demonstrated a disregard for the safety and welfare of AA and a breach of trust placed in you by your employer and members of the public.

“You recognised the neglectful and dangerous conditions AA was experiencing in June 2019 and you failed in your duty to proactively follow this up.

“You did not physically check or ask to check AA’s bedroom since this time in June 2019 to ensure it was being maintained to an adequate condition and the lock had been removed.

“As a result, AA was at an ongoing risk of neglect and harm.”

The SSSC said Ballantyne’s actions showed there was an “underlying values issue” and that the body was not confident the actions would stop if he was allowed to work again.

‘Social worker showed regret’

The probe noted that Ballantyne had demonstrated “insight and regret” and had cooperated with authorities.

He also had no previous history of misconduct.

But due to the serious nature of the complaint and the “pattern of behaviour” which may have put a vulnerable child in harm’s way the only option was to remove him from the social workers register.

“The SSSC considers a removal order the most appropriate sanction as it is both necessary and justified in the public interest and to maintain the continuing trust and confidence in the social service profession and the SSSC as the regulator of the profession,” it said.

A Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said: “We are aware of the outcome of the case.”

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