TWO Wrexham-based child care workers have been suspended from duty after a vulnerable young person absconded on a day trip to the North Wales coast.

Ben Berry and David Corrigan who appeared before a Social Care Wales fitness to practice panel were both found to have been dishonest about the incident.

They each faced 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 Preston 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 about care for '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 said 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.

"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 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.

Mr Berry was given a nine-month suspension, while Mr Corrigan was suspended for a year.

The reason for his longer term was because he was the senior of the two and had been found to have carried out a “sustained lack of honesty” which included four separate incidents.

Sue Hurds, chairing the panel, said both men had co-operated and shown remorse during the investigation and although both had played an important role in providing insight into the issue of absconding, there had been a clear attempt by them to conceal their wrongdoing.

She said: “Both of you have shown a passion for the profession and are capable of finding a remedy for your dishonesty.

“You have both responded positively in the need to improve your practice.

"I thank you for taking part in this hearing as many people in your situation choose not to attend.”

Ms Hurd added it was in the public interests for the suspensions to begin immediately and said both men would need to attend review panels two months prior to their orders expiring before being considered for a return to work.