Page last updated at 11:55 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009

At risk children 'being ignored'

Doncaster Council
The Children's Minister has written to the council to express concern

A social worker at Doncaster Council claims the cases of at least 60 children who may be at risk are being ignored because of a backlog of work.

Serious case reviews have been ordered into the deaths of seven children who have died in Doncaster since 2004 in cases involving abuse or neglect.

Last month Ofsted branded children's services in the town "inadequate".

The social worker, whose identity is being protected, said between 60 and 100 referrals had not been looked at.

The worker told BBC News: "I would say that there are neglect issues, lots and lots of neglect issues, that have not been dealt with because no-one's opened up the cases to actually start doing any analysis of what they've got in front of them.

"Some of those could be children that are in need of protection."

December's Ofsted report said of the 317 children on the local protection register, one in four had not been allocated a social worker.

'Scaremongering'

It also said that most of the town's children's homes failed to meet minimum national standards.

The council told BBC News that the situation had improved since the Ofsted inspection, and that every child in need now had a social worker.

Dr Paul Gray, director of Doncaster children's service, said the claims were "scaremongering of the worst kind".

He said: "Three weeks ago we received 60 additional referrals and all were immediately allocated to the most appropriate children's service areas, including disability and fostering and adoption.

"We do not have any unallocated child protection cases and we do not have any unallocated cases in relation to children looked after by the council."

Mr Gray said work was still ongoing to get five homes up to standard.

He said: "We have a very robust set of action plans for the five homes to make sure that within the next four months they are up to standard."

He added: "Our staff do an excellent job in often extremely difficult circumstances putting the families of Doncaster first.

"I am accessible to all staff who work in this difficult area, and I want to make clear they have my full backing, support and understanding."

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