A PAIR of Wrexham-based residential child care workers have been accused of allowing a vulnerable young person to abscond during a trip.

Ben Berry and David Corrigan have appeared before a Social Care Wales fitness to practise panel.

They each face nine charges each in relation to an incident in which a young person in their care left their sight and disappeared in Llandudno in May 2018 while they were employed by Keys Group.

The youngster was finally discovered in his home county of Lancashire, the panel heard in Mold.

Charges included a failure to ensure the young person - referred to throughout the hearing as 'A' - had two-to-one supervision in accordance with a risk assessment, that they delayed contacting the police after 'A' went missing, that they provided false or inaccurate information to police and their management about the incident and that their conduct had been dishonest.

They both denied deliberate dishonesty, but Mr Berry admitted documenting false information in a daily record sheet and failing to maintain contact with police after the incident.

Mr Corrigan admitted the delay in contacting police and failing to maintain contact with police following the incident, as well as providing inaccurate information to police, but emphasised he had not intended to mislead the officer he had spoken to.

David Mortimer, presenting officer on behalf of Social Care Wales, told the hearing the case came about after North Wales Police had raised concerns for the care of 'A'.

He told the hearing that 'A' was a teenage boy who had been placed into care in Wrexham by Lancashire Council and he was deemed to be a 'medium' risk child with a 'high' risk of absconding.

The day before the incident 'A' had attempted to abscond from the care facility in Wrexham and was located at a local train station - an action which both Mr Corrigan and Mr Berry were aware of and which highlighted the need for supervision, Mr Mortimer said.

He explained Mr Corrigan and Mr Berry had been tasked with taking 'A' on a trip and they had stopped at an Aldi store at the Mostyn Champneys Retail Park in Llandudno.

"It is clear that 'A' went missing while the registered persons were in the store," he said.

"There are factual issues as to how long 'A' was not in sight of the registered persons."

According to Mr Mortimer it was not until about one hour and 40 minutes after 'A' had absconded that Mr Berry and Mr Corrigan contacted acting manager Sarah Howarth to ask for authorisation to notify the North Wales Police.

It was Social Care Wales' case that there had been "an attempt to cover up what had happened" which, Mr Mortimer explained, had led to "false and inaccurate information being provided".

PC Mike Jones, appearing as a witness, told the hearing he had responded to the report of 'A' going missing and although it was not made clear how long the child had been gone, he was told all three individuals had entered the store.

However, after an unsuccessful search of the local area, PC Jones returned to the Aldi store to review CCTV and had been surprised to find it showing 'A' outside the entrance while both Mr Berry and Mr Corrigan went inside, where they were observed by multiple camera's going up and down several aisles with a shopping trolley.

PC Jones said: "There would be no way anyone could go about a full shop in the store and keep an eye on anything or anyone outside of the store."

PC Jones said he had tried unsuccessfully to contact Mr Berry or Mr Corrigan by telephone that evening, with up to 20 attempts being made, with all the attempted calls going straight to voicemail.

'A' was located the following day at a relative's home in Preston.

The fitness to practise panel, chaired by Sue Hurds, also had to decide whether they would accept a late piece of evidence which had come to Social Care Wales that morning, despite objections by Mr Corrigan and Mr Berry.

It was a recording of a phone call from Mr Berry to North Wales Police to notify them that 'A' had absconded.

Asked why they objected, Mr Berry said he had misspoken about the circumstances of 'A' absconding on the call and Mr Corrigan told the panel he could not remember what had been said over the phone, but that it was a "slip of the tongue".

The panel opted to admit the evidence as it was "highly relevant" to the case.

The hearing at The Beaufort Park Hotel is expected to last four days.