Council could lose control of children's services after Dearne torture case

A COUNCIL department which hit the headlines after a horrific torture case in Edlington could be run by an outside “commissioner”.

The work of Doncaster Council’s children’s services will be reviewed by a senior academic and the head of another council’s equivalent department after it was assessed by inspectors.

Education secretary Michael Gove has appointed Prof Julian Le Grand, from the London School of Economics, and Alan Wood, director of children’s services in Hackney, to review Doncaster’s children’s social care services department.

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One of the options being considered is an independent organisation taking over the department, which has already been subject to Government intervention since 2009.

It follows a series of failings being highlighted by a court case centering on two brothers who were jailed for torturing two boys at the Brick Ponds area of Edlington, which prompted the Government to carry out a review led by Lord Carlile.

Referring back to the Edlington case, Mr Gove said: “There are no easy answers which would allow us to prevent such dreadful cases from happening again, but we all have a responsibility to try to make the system work better.”

While Prof Le Grand’s review is underway, Mr Gove said, “the council will be expected to make immediate improvements to child protection and children’s social care.”

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He added: “To this end, they will be required to appoint a delivery partner with the capacity and capability required to address the inadequacies in child protection arrangements found by both Lord Carlile and Ofsted.”

Lord Carlile made a series of recommendations in his report, including annual medical examinations for all children up to age 16, a radical overhaul of how interventions in child protection cases are made, and the creation of a simple scoring system to compare services in different council’s areas.

Peter Davies, Mayor of Doncaster, said: “There have been significant improvements in our services but I have always made it clear that we still have a long way to go and need to accelerate the pace of change.

“The Department for Education, in its supervisory role, has had a shared responsibility for the improvement of children's services in Doncaster since April 2009 and we have worked with them tirelessly over the last four years and will continue to do so.

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“DfE acknowledged progress made together as recently as our last annual review and were considering reducing their involvement, even though improvements remained to be made.

“It is perhaps unfortunate that they have taken five months to respond to the latest inspection by Ofsted but we welcome any input that will allow us to move forward even faster and build a stable service.

“I will be considering the Secretary of State’s proposals and consulting with partners before replying to him in due course.

“As the latest report indicates there are no quick fixes and we must remember that we are responding to a huge problem that has been decades in the making.”

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Doncaster MPs Ed Miliband, Rosie Winterton and Caroline Flint welcomed Mr Gove’s

“We welcome the fact that the Education Secretary has listened to our calls to engage a new Children's Commissioner and delivery partner to improve Children’s Social Care in Doncaster.

“It is vital that ahead of the appointment of the Commissioner, Julian Le Grand is allowed to make a thorough assessment of the challenges which need to be met.

“As Doncaster MPs, our priority will remain on improving the quality of care for our town’s children.”

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