Education Secretary Michael Gove has rejected a long-awaited report into a sadistic attack on two young boys in South Yorkshire and ordered a new review of the catalogue of child protection failures leading up to the notorious assault.
The Department for Education published the full serious case review into the incident yesterday – a fortnight before it was to face a legal challenge from the Yorkshire Post over the failure to disclose the findings three years after the attack carried out by two brothers, aged just 10 and 11, in Edlington, near Doncaster.
Officials had been resisting publication ahead of a scheduled Information Tribunal hearing after the Yorkshire Post appealed a decision to further delay publication following a Freedom of Information request.
Publishing the heavily redacted document yesterday, Mr Gove said it “does not meet my expectations” and provided “insufficient analysis” of events leading up to the attack.
He couched his criticisms in terms of the current model of all serious case reviews being unsatisfactory and a desire to change their focus to better analyse actions of staff in future.
However, he also made clear he was not yet convinced all the lessons from the attack had been learnt in Doncaster where the council in particular was held largely culpable for failing to intervene in the abusive family life of the child attackers.
Mr Gove has now appointed Lord Carlile to carry out a “further independent review of the issues and the action taken and improvements made”.
But the Yorkshire Post can reveal that a previous lessons learned report, drawn up last year, has already been rejected by Mr Gove.
A tribunal witness statement from the Department said Doncaster’s safeguarding children’s board sent a final draft of a lessons learned report to the Department two months ago but “in the Secretary of State’s view, it was not satisfactory as an analysis of
the issues, the necessary lessons and improvements, and action taken.”
In a statement yesterday, Mr Gove said: “Doncaster has made progress since 2009 under its new leadership. But in order to continue, and accelerate, this progress, it is essential that Doncaster learns all the lessons of the past the better to protect Doncaster’s children today and in the future.”
Doncaster Council insisted it had improved and denied trying to stop publication of the full serious case review to keep its failings secret. The previously published executive summary found the attack could have been prevented.
The council was due to contest publication at the upcoming tribunal and a witness statement from assistant children’s director Vicki Lawson said she “strongly disagreed” with publication of the report because it was “not... in the best interests of the children and families concerned.”
Yesterday, the council’s children’s director Chris Pratt denied the council wanted the report kept secret because staff were not making good enough progres.
Despite opposing publication, Mr Pratt said he welcomed the Government’s re-examination of how the process should work.
He added: “I think there is a need to report in a much clearer way to the public about what is happening in serious case reviews and in that regard I think we would agree with what the Secretary of State is saying.”
He said the second review was also a “matter for the Government” and did not reflect negatively on the work that had been done in the past three years.
The Edlington attack was the final straw for the Government which ordered full-scale intervention into the running of Doncaster Council following a highly critical Audit Commission report in 2010 on its dysfunctional management.
Intervention in children’s services had begun the previous year when it emerged seven children known to the town’s social services had died since 2004,
The council also revealed yesterday that it is taking disciplinary action against five members of staff and has referred one former employee to the General Social Care Council, the social care regulator.