Education secretary says Doncaster’s children services need “radical change and improvement”

Education secretary Michael Gove.
Education secretary Michael Gove.

EDUCATION secretary Michael Gove has told an influential think-tank that the problems faced by Doncaster Council’s children services department are not “amenable to a quick fix”.

Speaking at the Institute for Public Policy Research this morning, he said the troubled children services was going to need “radical change and improvement”.

His speech coincided with the publication of two reports which criticised the department and set out a major overhaul to implement vast improvements.

He said: “I’ve taken a particular interest in child protection in Doncaster because I, like many, was horrified by the events a few years ago in Edlington, a village within the Doncaster local authority area, which resulted in two innocent children being horrifically abused by other children who were themselves the victims of parental abuse and neglect.

“I had the opportunity to meet the parents of those victims and was deeply moved by their courage and also determined that lessons be learned. I asked the distinguished lawyer Lord Carlile, the author of a very well-received investigation into child abuse in Ealing Abbey, to investigate and his report is published today.

“It should be read alongside the Ofsted report into Doncaster to give a full picture of the child protection problems Doncaster has faced.

“Anyone reading both reports will appreciate that the problems Doncaster faces are not amenable to a quick fix. Nor is there any single individual - or group - whom we can say are alone responsible for the problems Doncaster faces. But the situation is unacceptable, and needs radical change and improvement.

“I travelled to Doncaster to talk to the parents of the victims in the Edlington case, and earlier this month I visited Doncaster again to talk to the Chief Executive and the Director of Children’s Services. I hope to meet the town’s MPs next week, and will announce – after that meeting – the action I intend to take.

“I asked Lord Carlile to look at the situation in Doncaster because there were problems specific to the town which required expert external analysis. But in asking him to take on this work I was keen not just that we should learn lessons specific to Doncaster - but also that he should make recommendations about wider changes we needed to make to improve child protection.

“Reading his report, I have found his overall argument compelling. There are a series of specific recommendations, many of which I am instinctively drawn to and all of which deserve careful consideration. The Government will respond formally to all the recommendations in due course.

“But I want there to be a time for debate before the time of decision. Because one of the reasons why I like Lord Carlile’s approach so much is that he issues tough challenges - as I hope to today - and if we speak plainly then in fairness we need to hear how others respond before acting.”