Edinburgh secure units scandal: Emergency meeting next week to discuss latest allegations

An emergency meeting of the city’s education committee will take place next week as requested by the council’s opposition Tory group following newspaper allegations over Edinburgh’s secure accommodation.

By Ian Swanson
Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 2:48 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th April 2022, 2:51 pm

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A damning report to the council last month highlighted physical and mental abuse and other failings amounting to “illegality, maladministration and injustice” in Edinburgh Secure Services (ESS), the section of the children and families department responsible for the city’s two secure units.

But at the weekend the Sunday Post alleged an inquiry into ESS was ordered in 2017 on the authority of council chief executive Andrew Kerr but never took place. The paper also claimed the council allowed a vulnerable young woman to live with a care worker suspected of sexual abuse.

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Tory group leader Iain Whyte made a formal request on Monday for an emergency education committee meeting to discuss the implications of the allegations and hear from the chief executive on the issues.

The Tories tabled a motion of no confidence in Mr Kerr when the ESS report went to council last month, but councillors voted not to debate either the report or the motion because it was after the 5pm cut-off when remaining items are decided without discussion, and the no-confidence bid was duly defeated.

Now councillors could be quizzing Mr Kerr on the latest allegations with less than 48 hours to go until voting begins in the local elections.

Standing orders allow a quarter of the members of any committee to call an emergency meeting – the Conservatives have three councillors on the 11-member education committee. The meeting must take place within eight days of the request.

Tories want the emergency meeting to hear a report from chief executive Andrew Kerr.

It is understood to be the first time the council has had to call an emergency meeting in such circumstances during an election period.

The council confirmed an emergency meeting would be held next week, but said it had not yet been decided which day it would be. However, it will have to be Tuesday or Wednesday because an agenda must be circulated six days in advance, making Tuesday the earliest date, and Thursday is polling day.

Councillor Whyte said he thought the request would have to be accepted because standing orders allowed it. “I'm pleased that has been confirmed and there will be a chance to air these issues, hopefully in public, and we're now waiting to see how that process is carried forward.

“We're certainly looking for some kind of reporting from the chief executive and others so that these issues can be properly investigated. We need at least top level answers and then see whether it needs any investigation after that. We have to get to the bottom of this and see that everything has been properly looked into.”

The allegation about the inquiry that never was is that in 2017 the then head of social work Michelle Miller told service managers an investigation was to be ordered, on the authority of Mr Kerr, into the culture of the care service and what was a "serious and extremely complex" situation. An independent organisation was to be commissioned to carry out the investigation but it never happened.

It was also claimed staff were aware a girl under social work supervision was living with residential care worker Kasia Koziara, who was investigated for a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

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