The Mayor of Doncaster announced he would stand down at the next election in June after ministers ordered a major overhaul of children’s services at the council.
Martin Winter pledged his full cooperation with the government’s intervention strategy for Doncaster Council in his remaining 12 weeks in office.
Children’s secretary Ed Balls told the House of Commons yesterday that a new senior management team will be brought in to address “serious weaknesses” in performance, overseen by an external improvement board reporting directly to ministers.
Referring to an on-site assessment of services by officials from the Department for Children, Schools and Families, Balls said: “Despite significant investment over the past year and some progress, the review has concluded that urgent improvement is still required.”
A statement from the DCSF said officials would work with Doncaster Council to bring in senior staff on a temporary basis until the new management team is in place.
The improvement board will be chaired by Tony Elson, a former director of social services and later chief executive with Kirklees Council in West Yorkshire. The board will advise the DCSF on bringing in the new leadership team and scrutinise the performance and delivery of children’s services “at every level”.
The children’s minister, Beverley Hughes, ordered the establishment of the improvement board under the Education Act 1996.
Ofsted: ‘inadequate’ rating
Doncaster Council was one of four councils in England to receive an ‘inadequate’ rating for children’s services in Ofsted’s 2008 annual performance assessments.
The report found that although the number of children subject to a child protection plan was significantly higher than in similar authorities, one in four of those cases was not allocated to a social worker.
An interim children’s services director, Dr Paul Gray (pic right), took up his post last April. He blamed the crisis on an acute shortage of social workers, poor team structures and a hike in referrals, although he told Community Care a £4m improvement programme was showing signs of success.
A spokesperson for the council said: “Dr Gray will be working closely with the intervention team and will continue to drive forward the improvement plan.”
A row broke out in Doncaster last year after councillors accused the authority’s leadership of presiding over a culture of secrecy. Members said they were unaware of the existence of seven serious case reviews relating to children who had died in the last three years until reading about them in a local newspaper.
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