Michael Gove has slammed the serious case review into the ‘torture’ of two boys by two looked-after children for failing to adequately analyse what went wrong. A redacted version of the overview report was published today.
The education secretary has ordered a new independent review into the case, in which the two brothers, then aged 11 and 10, violently assaulted two other boys, then 11 and 9, near Edlington in Doncaster in April 2009.
The executive summary of the SCR was published in January 2010 but on entering government the coalition ordered the overview report to be published in full, along with past reports into the cases of Khyra Ishaq, Peter Connelly (Baby P) and Sharon Matthews, and for future SCRs to also be published in full.
“I have pressed for the fullest possible report to be published, explaining all the details of the case,” said Gove. “The redacted SCR overview report published today does not meet my expectations. It is an example of how the current model of SCRs is failing. It documents everything that happened but with insufficient analysis of why and what could have been done differently.”
He said he had asked Lord Carlile QC to conduct a further independent review of the issues raised by the case and actions taken to address them.
Responding to Gove’s comments, Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board chair Roger Thompson said: “The serious case review was prepared under the government guidance at the time, and all aspects were judged to be good by Ofsted. Comments made by the secretary of state today are about the reporting of serious case reviews nationally, not just Doncaster.”
Gove said Carlile’s review would be tied into the Department for Education’s wider review of progress at Doncaster Council’s children’s services, due this summer.
The government intervened in the department over child protection failings in March 2009, since when it has been overseen by an external improvement board reporting to ministers. A recent unannounced inspection by Ofsted found significant improvements in child protection in Doncaster.
The 11-page executive summary into the case revealed that:
- The assault was preventable.
- Domestic violence in the brothers’ family was known about since 1995.
- The brothers had had sustained exposure to violence and neglect.
- Professionals had focused primarily on their mother, rather than the children, and their practice was “insufficiently authoritative, consistent and assertive” with a family that was uncooperative and antisocial.
- Accountability for safeguarding in the council was insufficiently robust.
Several parts of the 161-page overview report were redacted to protect the anonymity of the children and families involved, as well as professionals.
However, it contains significant details that were not in the summary:
- Child protection plans made no impact on addressing the underlying difficulties in the family, did not focus on the children, were not based on competent assessments and not led by competent professionals.
- There was “insufficient collation and analysis of history and information through a well-organised assessment”, and professionals had “insufficient understanding of their legal powers and responsibilities”.
- Not enough inference was given to the mother’s inability to make appropriate judgements or her dependence on the father and other men.
- There were 30 missed opportunities to intervene between 1995 and 2009 to reduce the harm suffered by the brothers and their victims.
“The report highlights just how broken children’s services were in Doncaster three years ago when this serious incident happened,” said director of children’s services Chris Pratt. “Since then a great deal of work has been done to put in place effective leadership and stability, and drive forward urgent, significant and sustained improvements on many issues that have previously been identified as areas of concern.”
Children’s minister Tim Loughton will be speaking about the government’s vision for child protection at this year’s Community Care Live, on 16 and 17 May, while there will also be a session on implementing the Munro review’s recommendations.
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(Pic: Rex Features)