Page last updated at 16:21 GMT, Sunday, 6 September 2009 17:21 UK

MP describes boys' 'vile' attack

Ed Balls
Mr Balls was responding to comments by the chief executive of Barnardo's

Children's secretary Ed Balls has described the violent attack on two boys by two brothers in South Yorkshire as a "vile" and "horrific" crime.

He made the remarks following comments by Martin Narey, the chief executive of Barnardo's, that more very young children should be taken into care.

Mr Balls, MP for Normanton, said removing babies born to problem parents should not be a first resort.

He said it was important to "get to the root" of cases like that in Edlington.

On Thursday the brothers, aged 10 and 12, admitted charges of causing grievous bodily harm with intent after they attacked the boys, then aged nine and 11, torturing them with sticks and cigarettes.

'Completely broken'

Mr Balls said: "In the case of the boys in Doncaster, that was a vile crime, it was a horrific crime. It is good that these are rare cases, they don't happen very often at all, but when they do we are all appalled."

He pointed out that "serious issues" of alcoholism and abuse were at play in the family. He added: "In that kind of case, we need to intervene and engage, but I don't think the right thing to do in these cases is immediately to put children into care."

Mr Narey called for less focus on "fixing families that can't be fixed" and for social workers to be more pro-active about removing children at risk.

"We can't keep trying to fix families that are completely broken. It sounds terrible, but I think we try too hard with birth parents," he said.

Mr Balls said: "I don't think it's right to say that we can't support these kinds of families."

"The right thing to do in these cases is to say 'Can we sort out the problems in that family?'"

Doncaster Social Services is conducting a serious case review into the Edlington attacks. The brothers will be sentenced in November.

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