Shoesmith ruling: what does it mean for DCSs?

The Sharon Shoesmith case has wider implications for all directors of children’s services according to the judge who dismissed her claims.

Mr Justice Foskett, in his remarks at the hearing today, said: “Although there is a narrow focus to what I have had to decide, there are one or two wider implications that may impact on child safeguarding arrangements more generally. Those implications derive from what might be termed loosely the ‘security of tenure’ of someone who becomes the DCS of a particular area.”

He said a central issue raised within the case was the role of accountability. While overruling all of Shoesmith’s claims, Foskett raised the question whether the claimant could have been dismissed summarily because she was “accountable” for the failings of the department, even if not personally at fault for the existence of those failings.

This was one reason given for her dismissal and reflected in quotes from children’s secretary Ed Balls at a press conference on 1 December 2008. Foskett said the matter would be of “interest and concern” to anyone thinking of taking on the role of DCS.

The judge expressed concerns over the dismissal process of DCS’s in future and doubted many would undertake the role if someone was able to be removed without a proper and obviously fair process.

“That could potentially impact on the whole structure of the child safeguarding arrangements throughout the country which everyone, whatever their views about this particular case, must regard as extremely important,” he said.

He added that these were some of the difficult issues within his judgement and that he hoped for some “mature and measured consideration” to be given to matters around DCSs and their job roles.

Related articles:
Judge rules Shoesmith sacking was lawful

Sharon Shoesmith disappointed by High Court verdict

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