Doncaster council’s mayor and chief executive speak out on children’s services

Doncaster Mayor Peter Davies
Doncaster Mayor Peter Davies

BOTH Doncaster Council’s chief executive and elected mayor have said the authority is “not even halfway” to tackling the problems with their children’s services.

Two reports have been published today which have called for yet another overhaul of children’s services with government inspectors calling the department “inadequate”.

Mayor of Doncaster Peter Davies said: “The problems we have in children’s services are far-reaching and go back many years which I then inherited in 2009 from the previous administration. I am in no way complacent but thanks to the new senior management team and my two cabinet portfolio holders much progress has been made since then.

“However, we all realise that we are not even halfway there and I do not need these continuous reports to tell me that.

“It is a great shame that when Ofsted Inspectors visited Doncaster they did not speak to me personally as I would have been able to tell them that we have always known that a great deal more needs to be done and that I have faith in the team in Children’s Services to deliver this.”

Jo Miller, the authority’s chief executive, said, “This is a very disappointing result for us as an authority but in some respects not entirely unexpected.

“We are currently dealing with more children than ever before: referrals have doubled and investigations trebled in the last two years.

“Whilst it is good that people feel more comfortable coming forward and reporting issues to us there is also the knock on impact this has on workloads which have become unmanageable and some children have undoubtedly been left vulnerable.

“When Lord Carlile visited Doncaster, I told him that I believed Doncaster was less than half way towards being where it needed to be, and that remains my view. Despite being in DFE intervention for over three years, and recognising the increase in demand, we have not improved quickly enough and are not alone.

“Just under 45 per cent of all councils recently inspected on safeguarding have been deemed to have failed.

“We have some fantastic staff working with children and families, but good professional practice is not yet consistent. I am very clear there must be acceleration in our improvement by bringing in increased capacity, and in particular learning from the best councils and other organisations elsewhere. We need to get our early help to struggling families’ right, reduce caseloads for social workers and recruit great managers to fill the gaps that currently exist. We also need to improve our performance reporting. We clearly have a lot of work to do and it will take time however we have already set the wheels in motion.

“Lord Carlile has expressed optimism and I think that is fair. We have a long way to go and have some real issues to crack but with the right support and management we will get there. Whilst incredibly damaging, we must see this report as an opportunity for us to refocus, rethink and move forward.”