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Minister appoints Rotherham children's commissioner

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The education secretary has appointed a children’s social care commissioner for Rotherham MBC after Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw warned her of its “widespread and serious failure” to protect children.

Malcolm Newsam, a former director of children’s services who has worked with Haringey LBC and Doncaster MBC to improve services, will be Rotherham’s commissioner. LGC understands he will spend two days a week working with the council.

A letter from Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw to education secretary Nicky Morgan, sent before the watchdog had finished its inspection of the council’s services, said it was “necessary to alert you immediately to my deep concerns about serious weaknesses” at the authority.

Sir Michael said that, in the absence of a director of children’s services at the council, there was a “lack of clear leadership and accountability for children’s services.”

The council’s DCS Joyce Thacker left last month in the wake of a report by Professor Alexis Jay, which found 1,400 children were abused in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

“It is unclear whether the chief executive himself is assuming the statutory responsibility that the Children Act 2004 requires,” Sir Michael wrote.

Sir Michael also warned of “serious weaknesses in basic child protection practice and oversight, including the quality of risk assessment and care planning for children.”

He said the local safeguarding children board, a multi-agency panel tasked with overseeing services, was failing to comply with statutory guidance.

“As her majesty’s chief inspector, I consider that it is both necessary and expedient to share this information with you now,” he said.

“I am sure you will agree that more has to be done, and urgently, to protect and promote the welfare of children and young people in Rotherham.”

Meanwhile, the Department for Education has told Slough BC it will bring in a commissioner to oversee its services, and has confirmed that a trust will be set up to run the service. LGC reported in July that children’s minister Ed Timpson was planning to set up a trust in Slough.

More to follow

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