News story

Letter from the education secretary on the publication of the Edlington serious case review

Michael Gove explains that a further review is needed in addition to the 'J' children, Edlington overview report.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Education Secretary Michael Gove has today (29 March 2012) sent a letter to the Department of Health, Home Office, Ministry of Justice and to Graham Stuart and Stephen Twigg, and local MPs on the publication of the Edlington serious case review.

Publication of the serious case review overview report regarding the ‘J’ children, Edlington

I write to inform you that my department is publishing today the serious case review (SCR) overview report on the case of the ‘J’ children in Edlington.

The circumstances of this case and others involving serious problems with child protection prompted this government’s commitment to make information available so that everyone can understand and learn from what happened. The coalition government confirmed on 10 June 2010 the intention to publish serious case reviews. The SCR reports on the cases of Peter Connelly and Khyra Ishaq were published in 2010. This was done responsibly and sensitively, to protect the privacy of the victims and other vulnerable parties.

The executive summary of the Edlington J children SCR was published by Doncaster Local Safeguarding Children Board in January 2010. Since then I have pressed for the fullest possible report to be published, explaining all the details of the case.

The redacted SCR overview report published today does not meet my expectations. It is an example of how the current model of SCRs is failing. It documents everything that happened but with insufficient analysis of why and what could have been done differently. In the future we want SCRs to focus on why professionals acted the way they did, and what was getting in the way of them taking the right action at the right time.

Today’s SCR report puts a good deal more information into the public domain on the ‘J’ children case and it is right to publish it. However, I am not satisfied with the position we have reached. In particular, I want to be confident that all the necessary lessons and improvements have been identified. I have therefore asked Lord Carlile CBE QC to carry out a further independent review of the issues and the action taken and improvements made. In order to ensure that this builds on the progress already made under Doncaster’s new leadership, we will be linking this with the wider review of progress already planned for this summer, as part of the department’s formal, statutory, intervention.

The policy of publishing SCRs is intended to explain the many difficult decisions that have to be taken on a daily basis when working with vulnerable children. It is not an easy job to predict the future, but in many cases that is what we are asking of professionals every day. I do not want these reports to be used to assign blame where terrible incidents have taken place. People working in these circumstances need to have confidence that they will be backed by their managers when they take difficult decisions with good intent and sound judgement, whatever the outcome. Publishing factual information about serious incidents helps ensure that all the lessons are learned, nationally and locally, to reduce the risk of repeating mistakes. This will not only help people working at the front line; it will also give the public greater confidence. We want an open, confident, self-regulating system where professionals are continually asking how they can improve rather than a system clouded by secrecy and fear. Where there is clear evidence of failure or incompetence, individuals and organisations need to be held to account. Where there are successes, these should be celebrated and shared.

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.

The overview report regarding the ‘J’ children is being published on the Department for Education’s website. We are also making available alongside the report a link to the published executive summary from the Doncaster LSCB website.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education.

Notes to editors

The Edlington serious case review (SCR) is available on the Department for Education’s website.

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Published 29 March 2012