Rochdale’s children’s services director has resigned a week after a report found serious failings in the way the authority handled sexual exploitation cases.
In an email sent to staff this morning, Steve Garner said he had “decided to pursue new opportunities” and confirmed tomorrow would be his last day in the office.
Garner, who has worked for Rochdale’s children’s services for over a decade, acknowledged the last few years have been “challenging…with high levels of demand placed on the service, and those of us working within it”, but said he was leaving with “many fond memories”.
His decision to leave comes a week after a report into the sexual exploitation of young girls found the authority had received over 100 warnings of children being abused, but had failed to act.
It revealed social workers repeatedly ignored victims because they perceived teenage girls to be “making their own choices”.
The review acknowledged that professionals around the country were only just starting to become more aware of the issues around sexual exploitation between 2007 and 2011. They recognised the impact of the Baby P case and budget cuts had hampered this.
It followed the case of a teenage victim involved in the high profile Operation Span, which saw nine men convicted of grooming girls earlier this year.
Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk said he was disappointed Garner will not face disciplinary action, adding the council should not be allowing senior managers to “sneak off”.
“Obviously, questions hang over his role in the culture of neglect within social services, which let down so many young girls,” Danczuk said. “The council has to explain his part in this and I will also be calling for him to be brought before the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee for questioning.”
Jim Taylor, chief executive of Rochdale council, said the authority is undertaking a review of senior management and Garner – who he said had been “wholly committed to the work of council” – had decided it was now “right for him to move on to a new challenge”.
“The service director has been considering his options for some time, and following the safeguarding board’s thematic review of multi-agency responses to sexual exploitation, he believes the time is right to allow someone else to continue to take forward the recommendations,” Taylor said.
He added: “The payment made to the service director upon his leaving is no greater than the entitled contractual payments. The post has not been disestablished and therefore the payments made did not include a redundancy payment.”
Social work tool – Would you spot a child at risk of sexual exploitation?