More child deaths investigated, reveals Doncaster Council report

Roger Thompson, Chair of Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board. Picture: Marie Caley D0019MC
Roger Thompson, Chair of Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board. Picture: Marie Caley D0019MC
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Lessons still need to be learned in the care of Doncaster’s vulnerable children, according to a new report.

Although there have been no serious case reviews for four years – since the infamous Edlington torture case – the first annual report of the Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board shows members are carrying out seven Learning Lesson Reviews across the borough.

The board, which is independent of Doncaster Council and has members including social workers, the health service and police, has set up its own Serious Cases Panel.

The board has also investigated the deaths of 19 Doncaster children from April 2012 to March 2013.

The panel meets every two months and chair Roger Thompson said they had not had to carry out a serious case review since 2009. But he added: “Seven learning lessons reviews have been commissioned, the findings of which have demonstrated some departures from required standards to safeguard children. The Serious Case Panel has the responsibility to ensure all lessons and action plans are completed and evidenced by the agency concerned.

“The board also carry out a follow up audit sample to ensure action was in fact taken and embedded into practice.”

It is almost a year since a report was published by Ofsted which said Doncaster children’s services remained among the worst in the country despite Government intervention.

Ministers set up an improvement board at Doncaster Council in early 2009 following seven child deaths through abuse or neglect in five years, but the move was followed by the sadistic attack on two boys by two brothers aged 11 and 12 in Edlington.

That incident was the final straw for the Government, which sent in specialists to help run the under-fire authority following a highly critical Audit Commission report in 2010 which detailed its dysfunctional management.

The council struggled to make significant progress, however, despite bringing in a new head of children’s services, Chris Pratt, who was forced to work with the Westminster-appointed intervention team, and has since left the authority.

At the time Mr Pratt admitted his staff had failed to deliver on repeated promises of change, but said there had been a massive increase in demand for services while striving to meet the demands of ministers.

Mr Thompson said: “A revised improvement plan has been agreed to identify what is needed to rectify the deficiencies identified in the Ofsted inspection, but there is concern that services remain below the required standard.”