The government has appointed a leading academic to rule on whether troubled Doncaster MBC should be stripped of its legal responsibility for children’s services.
Julian Le Grand, the adviser at the heart of the Cabinet Office’s drive to encourage public sector mutuals and a former senior policy adviser to Tony Blair, has been asked to assess whether the service should be outsourced – along with the legal duty to safeguard children.
It would be the first time a council had been stripped of the legal duty. The council’s children’s services were found to be “inadequate” following an Ofsted inspection in November, having struggled since 2008 when the watchdog found them to be among the worst in the country.
A letter from education secretary Michael Gove to Doncaster MBC’s elected mayor Peter Davies (Independent), seen by LGC, said the council must also take “immediate” steps to bring in an outside body to help improve the services in the short term – although ultimate responsibility will remain with the council for the time being.
“The scale of the problem, confirmed by Ofsed’s most recent report, requires significant action”, the letter said.
It also said Mr Gove expected to appoint an extra “commissioner” in Doncaster following the publication of Professor Le Grand’s report. The “children’s service commissioner” would be tasked with making sure the council implented his recommendations, the letter said.
It added that the Department for Education would end the requirement for an independent board to oversee the council’s children’s services and report back to the department. The requirement was put in place after two children in the council’s care were convicted of torturing two children in Edlington in 2009.
Professor Le Grand will be supported by Alan Wood, director of children’s services at Hackney LBC. He is due to report back to Mr Gove by the end of May.
More to follow.
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