Play contract axed: Investigation prompted after worker charged with abusing child

Steatham Vale playground locked shut

Steatham Vale playground locked shut

First published in News Streatham Guardian: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A company which ran adventure playgrounds across the borough had its contract axed after a council investigation found it failed to carry out checks on its workers.

The probe was prompted after one of the company’s employees was charged with sexually assaulting a child.

Lambeth Council terminated its contracts with Lambeth Play Association, (LPA) – which ran seven adventure playgrounds across the borough, including the Streatham Vale playground – because it failed to “follow proper employment procedures”.

This week, it emerged an LPA employee, Romero Joseph, of Wimbledon, has been charged with intentionally touching a girl under 13 years. The 26-year-old will appear in court later this month.

The two incidents are not connected, and there is no suggestion a child at any Lambeth playground was affected, but Ashley Lumsden, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, will ask the council to review whether any playground users were put at risk.

He said: “Parents will be shocked at this appalling news. The Liberal Democrat group will now demand a full answer from the council as to who was working where and which children were put at risk in which playgrounds.”

The playgrounds were closed during the height of the school summer holidays after contract breaches relating to LPA failing to tell the council about disclosures arising from criminal record checks on some of its staff.

A document sent to councillors last week said LPA failed to follow guidelines requiring them to inform the council of “disclosures” arising from Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks on 11 of its staff.

It also noted LPA had not completed risk assessments on 12 staff and a “lack of evidence of robust safeguarding procedures”.

LPA issued a statement to say none of its employees had ever been charged with an offence related to their work on any of the play projects.

It said: “We would like to reassure the public that no offence of any kind has ever been charged against a member of our staff while working on any of the thousands of play projects we have managed on the council’s behalf.”

In its statement LPA said human error resulted in some safeguarding procedures not being recorded correctly as required by contracts with Lambeth.

LPA said: “No person who should have been barred from working with children by virtue of information held on their CRB check was ever employed by us.”

The charitable company has commissioned Adrian Voce, former director of Play England, to conduct an independent review to prevent future lapses.

A Lambeth Council spokesman said it would not comment on an upcoming court case and declined to elaborate on the breaches.

Two other LPA contracts – supporting other voluntary sector adventure playgrounds in the borough and promoting play services to new users – were also terminated.

The adventure playgrounds at Streatham Vale, Loughborough Park in Brixton, Willington Road in Clapham North, Kennington, Lollard in north Lambeth and Tulse Hill remain closed. Max Roach playground has since re-opened.

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