16 Nov 2012

Doncaster children’s services inadequate, says Ofsted

Social Affairs Editor and Presenter

Three years on from an abuse case that shocked the nation, an Ofsted report criticises Doncaster’s child protection arrangements as inadequate.

The state is failing to keep children safe up and down the country.

This stark admission was made by the education secretary, Michael Gove, on Friday who said he wanted to see more children taken away from abusive or neglectful parents much earlier.

He was speaking after two new reports – both highly critical – were published into the state of children’s services at Doncaster council in South Yorkshire.

It was in Doncaster in 2009 that one of the most shocking and appalling attacks in recent years was carried out on two young boys – by two young boys.

The victims, aged 11 and nine, were enticed down a ravine on some waste ground in Edlington by two brothers just 10 and 11 themselves.

They were beaten, burnt and forced to carry out sexual acts on each other. Their attackers threw a sink at the older boy leaving him for dead.

It was a case that sparked an agonised debate across the country – about whether it was parents or society at large which was failing our children.


There was outrage when it emerged that the two perpetrators had been known to a variety of child protection agencies for years, their own lives dominated by violence, neglect and abuse.

The inevitable inquiries followed and a serious case review was carried out.

But dissatisfied with that, the education secretary launched another review, and on Friday it was published, alongside the results of an unannounced Ofsted inspection.

The joint message is that not enough lessons have been learnt. Ofsted deemed all of Doncaster’s child protection services to be inadequate. It said that the council couldn’t be confident that all the children known to those services were safe.

The council’s director of the children and young people’s services, Chris Pratt, conceded that they had not fully recovered from the “broken” service they had in 2009.

But he also added that improved child protection policies had left them working with “an overwhelming number of children”.

He went on: “Together with huge difficulties in attracting experienced social work professionals to work in Doncaster, this has put tremendous pressure on our services.”

‘Radical reform’

Mr Gove said Doncaster was not the only area failing to keep children safe. Children were being put at risk, he said, up and down the country.

At a speech in central London he called for radical reform. “I firmly believe more children should be taken into care more quickly and that too many children are allowed to stay too long with parents whose behaviour is unacceptable.”

He said he wanted to see social workers be more assertive and courts to be “less indulgent” of parents.

But while asking for more children to be taken into care he had to acknowledge that the care system itself is often inadequate.

Taking children away though from abusive and damaging parents was key, he said.

Making sure where they go offers them adequate care and protection is as important too.