Council pledge in Ukip foster probe

Herald Series: Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone says he welcomes the inquiry into why foster children were removed from a couple who are Ukip members Rotherham Council leader Roger Stone says he welcomes the inquiry into why foster children were removed from a couple who are Ukip members

A couple who had three foster children removed from their care because of their membership of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) have said they are surprised they have had no apology from the council involved.

They were responding to a new statement on the controversy by under-fire Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council which pledged full support to an inquiry ordered by Education Secretary Michael Gove.

But the message from council leader Roger Stone offered no apology to the South Yorkshire couple. In a statement of their own, issued through Ukip, they said: "We are surprised there has been no apology from Rotherham Borough Council and feel they are hiding behind the complexity of this case."

The pair have not been identified to protect the trio of EU-migrant children involved in the case. They lost the youngsters when Rotherham Council social workers discovered their political allegiance, which they deemed incompatible with caring for the youngsters.

The foster couple, a qualified nursery nurse and a former Royal Navy reservist, said in an ideal world they would like the children back but their chances have been wrecked because they do not want to cause them any more upheaval.

They spoke out after being told by the social worker that Ukip was a racist party. The children, a baby girl, a boy and an older girl, were removed by social workers after the Labour-run council reportedly received an anonymous tip-off about the foster parents' membership of the right-wing party which wants withdrawal from the European Union and immigration curbs. Social workers said they were concerned about the children's "cultural and ethnic needs".

In his statement, Mr Stone said he had now received an initial report from his officials. He said: "As we said on Saturday, membership of Ukip should not bar someone from fostering. The council places the highest priority on safeguarding children, and our overriding concern in all decisions about the children in our care is for their best interests. We have been able to establish the facts in this case as far as is possible over the weekend, and I can confirm that the children are safe and in very good care."

But the Labour council leader said it was a "very complex case" involving legal advice and an external agency. He said: "The Secretary of State for Education has asked for an inquiry relating to this case over the weekend. The council welcomes this. We will work very closely with and give full co-operation to the Department."

Mr Stone said: "This is a sensitive child protection case. It involves both vulnerable children and the foster carers, so the information the council is able to release publicly is limited by law. At all stages, however, we will seek to be as open and transparent as possible as we co-operate with the Secretary of State."

Details of the incident emerged on Saturday and provoked widespread condemnation from political leaders including Mr Gove and Labour leader Ed Miliband.

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