Chairman of foster carer group says Norfolk County Council's legal head targeted him with 'safeguarding concerns'
PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 March 2017 | UPDATED: 08:48 07 March 2017
A chairman of a group which represents some foster carers in Norfolk has told how a letter alleging "safeguarding concerns" about him was sent by a council's legal chief to MPs, the police and every children's residential home in Norfolk.
In May 2015, a grandmother received a call from her teenage granddaughter, who was in foster care, asking her to visit her in Norwich where she was staying in temporary accommodation but was unsure where.
Her grandmother had been told she was with foster carers in south Norfolk and the family had not been told she had been moved.
She contacted UKIP councillor Stan Hebborn, who had helped them with the case previously, asking if he could help them find out where their granddaughter was.
He contacted another county councillor in Norwich, Deborah Gihawi, who had also taken on children’s services cases.
Mrs Gihawi phoned the chairman of a group called the Norfolk Foster Care Association (NFCA), Ray Bewry, who said he thought he knew from the description where in Norwich the accommodation was.
He knew the grandparents and said he went round to the accommodation to make sure the granddaughter was okay and she told him she was.
A month later nplaw sent a letter to Mr Bewry raising “safeguarding concerns” about him.
An email with the letter from nplaw head Victoria McNeill attached was also sent to every Norfolk MP, the police, and all children’s residential homes across Norfolk.
Ms McNeill claimed in the letter that Mr Bewry had upset the teenager and had “sought to gain access” to her.
It accused him of a “war of attrition” against the council and stated he had a history of largely unsuccessful complaints about the children’s services department.
The NFCA and the council have been at loggerheads for years over the way some looked after children were removed from their foster carers.
The teenager’s grandparents said Mr Bewry, a former foster carer, was simply visiting to check up on her and Ms McNeill’s email was “disgraceful”.
Police later said they had spoken to Mr Bewry and would not be investigating as the case was not an “attempted abduction”. Mr Bewry claims the incident is symptomatic of the heavy-handed tactics used by the council against its critics in some cases.
“It seems to us that there are no changes. The culture remains the same,” he said.
Norfolk County Council did not comment on the case.
On Saturday, this newspaper began an investigation into Norfolk County Council’s children’s services department as part of our Fighting for Their Futures Campaign.