Page last updated at 15:52 GMT, Sunday, 7 February 2010

Report finds Doncaster children 'still at risk' of harm

Doncaster Council
The Ofsted inspection was carried out in January

An Ofsted inspection into Doncaster Council's children's services has found there is still the potential for vulnerable children to be left at risk.

The inspection found while the council had made overall improvements, there were delays and a lack of "robust decision-making" in some cases.

Its findings come after the authority apologised for failings which led to two boys being tortured in Edlington.

The council said the report was a "step forward" but more needed to be done.

The inspection examined Doncaster Council's contact, referral and assessment arrangements.

We are pursuing the further improvements that are needed with great vigour
Chris Pratt, director of children's services

The findings of the unannounced inspection, which was carried out on 12 and 13 January, are contained in a letter from Ofsted inspector Gary Lamb to Nick Jarman, the council's interim director of children's services.

Under the headline "Area for priority action", it states: "There has been improvement to ensure that prompt decision making takes place with regard to safeguarding children who are at risk of significant harm.

"However, practice is not consistent and there are examples of cases where there have been delays and a lack of robust decision-making, resulting in the potential for children to be left at risk".

The inspection found a backlog of unallocated cases had been "addressed effectively" by the council.

'Positive step'

It noted that councillors and senior managers had demonstrated effective leadership in identifying the service's shortfalls.

The authority was also found to have shown a "strong commitment" to driving forward improvements over the past eight months.

The council's new director of children's services, Chris Pratt, said: "This latest Ofsted report is a positive step forward for children's services at Doncaster but a great deal more still needs to be done and we are pursuing the further improvements that are needed with great vigour.

"We are pleased that Ofsted has recognised a number of strengths within the service. Everyone in Doncaster is fully committed to making all the improvements necessary to provide the best possible services and support to the children and young people of the borough."

Last month a serious case review found that the Edlington attack by the brothers, aged 11 and 12, was "preventable".

Report ordered

The council's children's services department is now being run by the government after the deaths of seven children in the town between 2004 and 2008.

The deaths have prompted serious case reviews, previous Ofsted inspections and a government investigation.

Children's minister Ed Balls has now asked the independent chair of the government's Improvement Board to compile a report into the council's children's services department.

Mr Balls said: "In the last couple of weeks there has been an unannounced inspection from Ofsted which says that the backlog of cases have now been sorted out, the leadership is strengthened, we are going in the right direction."

He added: "We are pushing Doncaster very, very hard indeed. I can't say yet that everything is right - these things take a long time to turn around - but everything is being done to make sure that children in Doncaster are safe."

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