Learning lessons of Doncaster child tragedies

Doncaster Civic Offices, part of the Doncaster Civic & Cultural Quarter
Doncaster Civic Offices, part of the Doncaster Civic & Cultural Quarter

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 from various agencies including social workers, the health service and police, has set up a its own Serious Cases Panel.

Its remit is to consider cases where practice may be brought into question by any agency working with children and young people.

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 that all lessons and action plans are completed and evidenced by the agency concerned.

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

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

It is 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.

The council struggled to make significant progress, however, despite bringing in a new head of children’s services, Chris Pratt, who has since left the authority.

Mr Thompson says: “This is a difficult report to write as the position of safeguarding in Doncaster is not satisfactory.

“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, a position that is not helped by staff turnover.”