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Weak LGA response to the Rotherham scandal as Labour council leader dithers

The Local Government Association have responded to the Rotherham foster care scandal with this statement in the name of Cllr David Simmonds, Chairman of the Local Government Association's
Children and Young People Board, said:

"Councils are committed to placing children in loving homes where they are safe and secure. We welcome with open arms people who are keen to foster or adopt. Clearly, there are processes that have to be followed when approving who is suitable to adopt, but political affiliation to mainstream parties should not be a barrier and isolated incidents where councils get this wrong are not representative of the views of the sector as a whole, where local politicians are totally committed to improving chances for children."

It could have been worse. After Baby P the LGA response was to defend Haringey Council. But what a weak weaselly statement it is. If you read it carefully it doesn't even say that the Rotherham social workers made a mistake - only that their might theoretically be such mistakes and if they did occur they were "isolated" and "unrepresentative." UKIP membership shouldn't be a "barrier" - but that could mean shouldn't in itself preclude someone fostering or adoption but legitimate to take into account. Something you lose points over.

Then there is the soothing implication that Joyce Thacker is not a typical social worker. That her views are not representative. That her colleagues don't share her mindset. But she is. They are. They do. For the LGA to come out with something completely untrue is a false reassurance.

Cllr Simmonds should have said that what happened was despicable. That Rotherham Council are a disgrace to local government. That such an incident must never be allowed to happen again. That the wider bigotry it encapsulates must cease.

Councils paying a sub to the LGA should consider once again whether they want to challenge "group think" or subsidise it.

We have also had another statement from the Labour council leader in Rotherham, Cllr Roger Stone.

He said:

"This morning I received a report of the immediate investigation that was ordered early on Saturday by the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services.

Having now listened to the initial report I am now able to set out the way forward.

"As we said on Saturday, membership of UKIP should not bar someone from fostering.

"The Council places the highest priority on safeguarding children, and our overriding concern in all decisions about the children in our care, is for their best interests.

"We have been able to establish the facts in this case as far as is possible over the weekend, and I can confirm that the children are safe and in very good care.

"However, this remains a very complex case involving legal advice relating to the decision in question, particular features of the children's background and an external agency responsible for finding and providing the foster carers concerned.

"The Secretary of State for Education has asked for an inquiry relating to this case over the weekend. The Council welcomes this. We will work very closely with and give full cooperation to the Department.  The Chief Executive has this morning invited the senior officials making the enquiries to meet with him and other council officers in Rotherham as soon as possible, so that this information can be rapidly reported to the Secretary of State.

"In order to help the investigation further, we will also make all the facts established so far available to the Secretary of State's officials.

"The investigation will focus on the information, advice and evidence gathered before making this decision, the nature of the decision itself and how it was communicated.

"This is a sensitive child protection case. It involves both vulnerable children and the foster carers, so the information the Council is able to release publicly is limited by law. At all stages however we will seek to be as open and transparent as possible as we cooperate with the Secretary of State."

So no apology. No resignations. No details of quite which facts he feels he needs to discover before being able to say that removing the children was wrong.

Joyce Thacker said on Saturday she had "no regrets" over the removal of the children. It is acnowledged by everyone that the only reason they were removed was the foster carer couples membership of UKIP.

Miss Thacker is the head of the Children's Services Department. Is she now investigating herself?

The plot thickens and the smell grows.


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