Case study – Terence – “An intervention by social services may have ruined my chance of a new relationship”

Terence received a conviction for a sexual offence when he was a teenager; he’s now in his 40’s. He contacted our helpline recently seeking advice around an issue he was having with social services.

Terence explained that he had recently started a relationship with a lady who had two children. However, they had been forced to split up due to the intervention of social services.

He believed that his partner’s estranged husband had become aware of his conviction through Sarah’s Law and had made a complaint to social services. Terence had been interviewed by them and was told that:

  • The law stated that as a result of his conviction he was required to disclose it to anybody he started a relationship with.
  • As he hadn’t disclosed to his new partner, they believed that potentially he could be looking to groom her children.
  • If Terence didn’t end the relationship, the children may be removed from their mother.

Terence described the interview as an “interrogation”, taking him back to a period in his life which he’d tried to put behind him.

We provided Terence with the following information:

  • As he was no longer on the Sex Offenders Register or subject to a SOPO/SHPO, there was no legal  requirement for him to disclose an historic conviction to a new partner.
  • If social services had any concerns, they should have conducted a risk assessment evidencing the risk they believed the children to be at. We suggested that Terence apply for copies of all data held by social services by submitting a Subject Access Request.
  • If he felt the risk assessment was not proportionate or he believed that social workers was abusing their power, then he could consider making a complaint.

Terence has since made a complaint to both social services and his MP. Social services have refuted his claim that they accused him of grooming. He and his partner have now made the decision to have another assessment in the hope that they will be given permission to live together with the children.

Lessons

We appreciate that there is a need for social services to carry out risk assessments where people with certain violent or sexual offences are entering into new relationships, especially if their new partner has children. However, these risk assessments are often not proportionate with regard to the evidence available and the historic nature of the offence and can result in people being told to end their new relationship.

We would always recommend that where an individual feels a social worker is not acting proportionately when dealing with a case, then they should appeal or challenge their decisions. Although parents may be threatened with having their children removed, this can’t happen without a proper risk assessment having been carried out.

Links

Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published September 2019

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