A social worker has been struck off after engaging in a sexual relationship with a “vulnerable” 16-year-old who was in foster care.
The relationship was uncovered after the boy’s foster carers, who worked for Calderdale Council, discovered incriminating messages on Facebook, the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) heard.
Claire Runkee was employed by Hull City Council at the time of the relationship, between January and February last year.
Sian Jones, a solicitor acting on behalf on the HCPC, told the hearing in London last week how Runkee developed “a friendship” with ‘Child A’, outside of work.
Child A’s foster carers obtained a transcript of his Facebook messages with Runkee, which “appeared to show that a sexual relationship has developed”, a report of the hearing said.
They sent a copy to Calderdale Council, and following a meeting with police, Runkee was identified as the social worker. An investigation was launched at Hull Council, where Runkee admitted being involved in a sexual relationship with the boy. Initially she claimed to have believed he was 18 but later acknowledged she knew that he was 16.
On reaching its decision, the HCPC said Runkee made “explicit reference” to the fact that if the relationship became public she could lose her job.
“She told Child A ‘not to rock the boat’,” the report said.
The panel found her actions constituted misconduct and represented a “significant” breach of the HCPC standards, and “an abuse of power and trust” on Runkee’s part.
Hull Council’s city children safeguarding manager, Jon Plant, said Runkee was immediately suspended when it was brought to their attention. She is no longer employed by the council.
A Calderdale Council spokesperson said it took action as soon as the child’s foster carers raised concerns.
She added: “We immediately stopped all contact between them and fully supported the investigation and family through this difficult time.”