Sunday, May 08, 2016
Social worker, 38, had sex with vulnerable boy, 16, in a hotel after sending string of 100 'graphic and sexually explicit' messages on Facebook
A social worker has been struck off the register after engaging in a sexual relationship with a 'vulnerable' teenage boy. Claire Runkee, 38, was struck off the register of social workers after her relationship with the 16-year-old, during which she took him to a hotel for the night and sent him a string of explicit messages.
At a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) hearing it emerged the boy - who was placed with his foster carers at the age of four and known as Child A - had to undergo therapy after the liaison was uncovered.
Ms Runkee was caught when the boy's foster carers saw more than 100 'graphic and sexually explicit' messages on Facebook.
She qualified as a social worker in 2012, and had been working with a children's safeguarding team for a year before developing 'a friendship' outside of work with Child A. The boy was vulnerable, had struggled at school and was under a care order.
His foster carers saw the Facebook messages from Ms Runkee between January 1 and February 13 last year, which showed she had 'placed pressure' on the boy not to reveal their relationship.
One message stated: 'Choose what you want to say and stick to it, don't rock the boat baby. 'Think about keeping your mouth shut as to deviate will cause us problems.'
The foster carers sent the messages to the council that had placed the boy in care and an investigation began.
The HCPC found that although she had expressed remorse, she showed no evidence that she 'fully acknowledged the degree to which her behaviour was wrong'.
The HCPC stated yesterday: 'The foster placement very nearly broke down as a result of these events.
'Sessions of therapy were organised and, more significantly, Child A was given professional help to understand the inappropriate nature of the relationship.'
The conduct and competence committee stated: 'Although the sexual relationship was consensual, the conduct was an abuse of power and trust which included deliberately attempting to conceal actions for personal gain.'
During interviews at Hull City Council, East Yorkshire, Ms Runkee said at first she believed the boy was 18 before admitting she knew he was only 16.
'She accepted that the relationship was inappropriate,' the ruling stated.
During one interview, she admitted booking a hotel and taking the boy there.
She said: 'I became aware of his age and entered into a sexual relationship with him. I should have ended it but I didn't.'
The committee, chaired by Gill Madden, stated: 'She placed a child at risk of emotional harm. 'This was a deliberate and reckless act with Child A.'
While she had not committed a crime and had no professional connection with the boy, the committee ruled she had breached standards of conduct, performance and ethics.
An email from Ms Runkee, sent to the committee last month, stated she had 'lost her integrity, her reputation and her self-respect, that she continues to manage her shame and anxiety on a daily basis'.
While she did not attend the hearing, the panel said there was no evidence she had recently reflected on the impact on Child A.
The panel concluded striking her name from the register was a 'last resort', adding: 'It was a significant breach of basic social work standards and risked bringing the profession into disrepute.'
Jon Plant, city children safeguarding manager at Hull City Council, said Ms Runkee was suspended when the allegations came to light and no longer worked for the council.
He said: 'We do not tolerate conduct that falls outside of the code of conduct and the professional standards for social workers, which we expect our staff to uphold at all times.'
Ms Runkee began working for Hull City Council in 2011 before qualifying as a social worker the next year.