Salford suspends children’s services chief

Salford Council has suspended its children’s services chief, Jill Baker, following months of criticism over a child death and calls from opposition councillors for her to step down.


The suspension also comes days after Ofsted published a critical review of Salford’s children’s services following an unannounced inspection, which found delays in child protection investigations and in the completion of initial and core assessments.


The Manchester Evening News reported that Baker had refused an offer of a lump sum plus her pension to retire.


Pressure over Demi Leigh murder


Baker had been under pressure following the murder of two-year-old Demi Leigh Mahon by Karl McCluney, 15, in July 2008.


He inflicted 68 injuries on Demi Leigh by punching, kicking and biting her because he was fed up with her behaviour. He was left to look after the toddler while her mother, Ann Marie McDonald, went out to collect a child benefit cheque.


It later emerged that social workers had been warned 12 times about problems in Demi Leigh’s family life.


Suspension a “neutral act”


Salford Council spokesman John Carberry said Baker’s suspension was a “neutral act pending an investigation”.


It will be proposed to the council that its chief executive, Barbara Spicer, should be given statutory responsibility for children’s services pending conclusion of the investigation.


The Ofsted report identified two areas for priority action, which will be specifically addressed in any future inspection.


Poor record-keeping


Inspectors raised the cases of five children after they were unable to establish from records whether the council had taken action to ensure the children were not at risk from harm. These included cases where information had not been properly examined at the point of referral, or where assessments were of poor quality and “did not sufficiently consider risk”.


Baker’s future will be decided by a committee of three elected members, following an investigation by a senior council officer.


The committee could exonerate Baker, state their opinion on whether evidence supports any allegations of misconduct, or take disciplinary action. This could include anything from a recorded oral warning through to dismissal without notice.


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