Doncaster Council has reinstated a children’s services worker it suspended for speaking to the media, as Unison threatened to ballot 5,000 staff on industrial action.
Jim Board, a reintegration officer in Doncaster’s children’s services, had been suspended after speaking to Channel 4 News about the case of two brothers in care who attacked another two children.
Council chiefs said Board had “failed to observe a reasonable management instruction”, after children’s services staff had been told not to speak to the media in case they prejudiced the boys’ trial.
However, Board’s interview with Channel 4 News, in which he defended Doncaster’s children’s services, came after the boys, aged 10 and 12, had pleaded guilty at Sheffield Crown Court to causing grievous bodily harm.
His suspension, and the promotion of an alternative trade union by Doncaster mayor Peter Davies, prompted Unison to claim the council’s actions were politically motivated.
Board was reinstated on18 September, the day after Unison, at two mass meetings, told Doncaster Council staff of its intention to ballot for industrial action over the suspension. It was unclear as Community Care went to press if Unison would proceed with a ballot.
Doncaster Council declined to say why Board had been reinstated.
The attack by the boys in Edlington, near Doncaster, received widespread publicity after details emerged of the severity of the assault.
The attackers had been placed with foster parents in Edlington only three weeks before the incident. They had previously been involved in violence and were known to police.
An independent inquiry is looking at why children’s services failed to heed warnings that the brothers were out of control.
Doncaster’s safeguarding performance has already been criticised in several serious case reviews, its annual performance assessment last year by Ofsted, and in a review this year by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
These prompted children’s secretary Ed Balls to appoint an external board to scrutinise progress and order Doncaster to appoint a new senior management team.