Chief apologises over Edlington case failings

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The Independent Online

A damning review of social services' failures during the child torture case forced an "unqualified" apology from the authority's director tonight.

Releasing a summary of a serious case review by Doncaster Safeguarding Children Board, the board's chairman Roger Thompson said the case was "preventable" and "many important lessons" needed to be learned.

But Nick Jarman, interim director of Doncaster's social services, confirmed later that only one person had faced disciplinary action so far.

Asked if he thought that this was "astonishing" he said: "I don't think it's astonishing at all."

Mr Jarman added during a press conference after the brothers were sentenced: "I would like to start by offering an unqualified apology on behalf of Doncaster Council for the admitted failings which led to this terrible incident.

"In particular, I would like to apologise to the victim of this case and their families and offer my apologies also to the residents of Doncaster."

He said he came to Doncaster in April last year and found "an organisation which was totally broken".

Mr Thompson again defended the decision to publish only the executive summary of the serious case review. He said the board was following Government policy.

He said the board was "very concerned" that the full review was leaked and said the police were investigating what happened.

The review included 18 recommendations for improving practice, with a catalogue of criticism of authorities' conduct in failing to protect the victims.

It said: "The panel concluded that the assault was a preventable incident. Although the extent and severity of the assault could not have been predicted, the perpetrators had shown an escalating pattern of violence against other children and adults over a period of several months.

"There were opportunities to intervene more effectively right up to the week before the assault.

"Although many services tried to work with the family, none were able to make an effective change to the behaviour and problems of the boys and their family."

Children's social care services were "reluctant" to get involved, the report added.

"An important reason for that failure was the reluctance of children's social care services to become involved. When they did, they did not act with sufficient purpose and did not complete the inquiries or assessments required by legislation and national standards," the review said.

Doncaster's beleaguered social services department has come under fire time and again in recent years.

Seven children known to the authority have died in the borough since 2004, prompting serious case reviews, Ofsted inspections and a Government investigation.

Mr Jarman described what had happened as a "catastrophe".

He said the department would be appointing an independent investigations officer who would probe disciplinary issues "without fear or favour".

Asked why the brothers were placed with elderly foster parents near their abusive father, Mr Jarman said: "They were placed with experienced foster parents and it wasn't known at the time they were close to their father. And in any case they were in the care of experienced foster parents."

He said the foster parents had taken on "particularly challenging cases" in the past.

"There was no reason to suppose this at the time would have been any different," Mr Jarman said.