Ex-child care chief: ‘I acted with in­tegrity’

Man whose depart­ment was crit­i­cised speaks

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Front Page - By ADAM UREN adam.uren@pe­ter­bor­oughto­day,co.uk @ETADAMU

THE for­mer head of the city’s chil­dren’s ser­vices said he acted with “great in­tegrity” dur­ing a pe­riod when the depart­ment was “not func­tion­ing” and the safety of chil­dren was put at risk.

With Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil’s much-crit­i­cised chil­dren’s ser­vices depart­ment once more in the spot­light af­ter fail­ings were high­lighted in the case of tragic five-year-old Tyler Whe­lan, the man in charge of chil­dren’s so­cial care at the time of the tot’s death in March 2011 has spo­ken out for the first time since his res­ig­na­tion.

John Richards stepped down from his post in Septem­ber 2011, af­ter a damn­ing Of­sted in­spec­tion re­port found chil­dren’s ser­vices were fail­ing in seven out of nine safe­guard­ing cat­e­gories, fail­ing to im­prove in the 18 months af­ter a sim­i­larly in­ad­e­quate re­port in March 2010.

At the time of his res­ig­na­tion, the cab­i­net mem­ber for chil­dren’s ser­vices, Cllr Sheila Scott, said the coun­cil’s Safe­guard­ing and Chil­dren in Care Project Man­age­ment Board was given a “rosier ver­sion of what was re­ally hap­pen­ing”, with Mr Richards ac­cept­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity for fail­ing to dis­close is­sues to the board.

But when asked whether he mis­led the coun­cil, Mr Richards - who re­ferred to him­self as a “charis­matic leader”, said: “I am not at lib­erty to talk about the events for le­gal rea­sons, but I would say I acted with great in­tegrity.

“What I agreed with the chief ex­ec­u­tive (Gil­lian Beasley) at the time was that there needed to be a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to get­ting this depart­ment right.

“I agreed we needed a par­a­digm shift to a team-led ap­proach and as a re­sult I was go­ing to step aside.

“We did have a team be­fore, but if you have a ser­vice that is not prop­erly func­tion­ing, which it was not, then my view is that hav­ing a charis­matic leader is not enough, and what you need is a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.”

A se­ri­ous case re­view that was con­ducted by the Peter­bor­ough Safe­guard­ing Chil­dren Board in the af­ter­math of Tyler’s death found that there were two oc­ca­sions where more ac­tion could have been taken by chil­dren’s ser­vices to learn more about his cir­cum­stances.

Elvis Lee, the part­ner of Tyler’s mum Stephanie Whe­lan, was on Tues­day jailed for life for the mur­der of the tot. The young­ster’s mother is cur­rently await­ing sen­tence af­ter be­ing found guilty of caus­ing or al­low­ing the death of a child.

The coun­cil’s chil­dren’s ser­vices was slammed by Of­sted in March 2010 and six mem­bers of staff were sacked af­ter man­age­ment fail­ures led to a huge back­log in so­cial care re­fer­rals.

All the im­prove­ments re­quired by Of­sted were not made and in Septem­ber 2011 Mr Richards re­signed af­ter Of­sted crit­i­cised poor as­sess­ments of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren, poor record-keep­ing and in­ad­e­quate man­age­ment.

Cllr Scott ini­tially sug­gested that mem­bers of the safe­guard­ing board were not given the full picture by Mr Richards while the depart­ment was fail­ing.

But in a sur­prise turn­around yes­ter­day, and ap­par­ently at odds with the state­ments pub­lished at the time of Mr Richards’s res­ig­na­tion, Cllr Scott has said it was of­fi­cers and not Mr Richards who may have been at fault.

She added that Mr Richards had acted with great in­tegrity “since he left”.

She said: “I think John Richards was re­port­ing to us what he be­lieved to be the truth.

“I don’t think it was mis­in­for­ma­tion be­ing re­ported to us, it was just overly op­ti­mistic. But John Richards was ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble, as I too was ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble, as I don’t think the data avail­able was of the high­est qual­ity.

“I think it was the fault of the of­fi­cers and this was not nec­es­sar­ily Mr Richards’ fault, though he clearly took re­spon­si­bil­ity.

“I still have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to John Richards. He has be­haved with great in­tegrity since he left, he has not said any­thing for all these months.

“I was also ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble at the time but as I’ve said be­fore I feel I can be part of the so­lu­tion and now those sys­tems are be­ing put in place and now I am be­com­ing in­creas­ingly con­fi­dent about the in­for­ma­tion as it is pub­lished now.”

in­tegrity: John Richards, the for­mer head of Peter­bor­ough City Coun­cil’s chil­dren’s ser­vices.

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