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Government inquiry launched into Doncaster's children's services

Date:14 JAN 2009

The government has ordered an independent inquiry into Doncaster Council's children's services after serious case reviews into the deaths of seven children in the area.

Of the seven deaths, two of the children were murdered by their fathers and four were less than one year old at the time of their deaths.

In each of the case reviews it was found social workers had failed to intervene and in one case that the children's services department was described as chaotic and dangerous.

Children's Minister Beverley Hughes has written to the mayor of Doncaster to inform him of the inquiry after Ofsted assessed the council's children's services as among the worst in England.

"It is crucial that the root causes of these failings are fully explored and that the capacity and capability of the council and its key partners to drive improvement in these areas is fully assessed," Mrs Hughes said in the letter.

"I have therefore instructed my officials to commission a thorough diagnostic review to evaluate the current position of the council's children's services."

In December, Doncaster's children's services were rated as inadequate along with four other English local authorities by Ofsted in its Annual Performance Assessments.

Martin Winter, the mayor of Doncaster since 2001, said the council recognised its failings and would launch its own internal investigation today.

"As Mayor of Doncaster, nothing is more important than ensuring the protection of vulnerable children and young people across the borough. I am certain we are the only council to have assessed ourselves as inadequate which is why we are conducting our own internal and independent investigation commencing on Wednesday to find out why we have experienced such difficulties in our delivery of child safety, and crucially, how and what lessons can be learned", he said.

"Concerning a Government led review of the performance of safeguarding services in Doncaster, I have received a letter from Government Minister, Beverley Hughes, that acknowledges the robust systems and procedures we have worked hard to put in place - along with the close cooperation already established. I am fully supportive of this approach and look forward to us working together in improving our safeguarding agenda further."

However yesterday evening a number of Councillors called for the Mayor's resignation at an emergency meeting at Doncaster's Mansion House to discuss child protection issues in the borough.

Garth Oxby, leader of the Independent Alliance group, said: "I think the mayoral system, under the present executive, and that is Mayor Winter, have failed this town for the past seven years. I think he's ducking and diving. Doncaster Borough Council are supposed to co-ordinate these matters and I think they've singularly failed to do that."

A motion calling for Mr Winter to accept full responsibility and to resign has been submitted to the full council which meets next week.

On Monday, the former director of children's services at Haringey Council, Sharon Shoesmith, lost her appeal against her dismissal in the wake of the Baby P case. In addition she will not receive any payment in lieu of notice, said a Haringey Council spokesman.