Star Hobson: Bradford Council loses control of children’s services after case of murdered toddler

·3-min read
Five family members raised concerns about Star’s home life with the council in the eight months before she was killed (West Yorkshire Police/PA)
Five family members raised concerns about Star’s home life with the council in the eight months before she was killed (West Yorkshire Police/PA)

Bradford City Council has been stripped of control of its children’s services following the murder of 16-month-old Star Hobson, it has been announced.

The department has been heavily criticised for not doing more to protect the infant, who was killed by her mother’s partner Savannah Brockhill in September 2020.

Five different family members and friends raised concerns about Star’s home life with the authority in the eight months before she was beaten to death by the 28-year-old security guard. But, each time, officials concluded that the youngster was safe living with her mother, Frankie Smith, 20, and Brockhill,

The department will now be taken over by a specially created independent trust after a damning report was given to education secretary Nadhim Zahawi by Steve Walker, the government-appointed Children’s Services Commissioner in Bradford.

Mr Zahawi said: “It’s clear from the recommendations made by the commissioner in Bradford that the council needs support to improve and so I’m pleased that Bradford Council have agreed to establish a new trust that will bring positive change for the council and independent oversight that drives improvements.

“This is an important moment for children and families in Bradford, and for social workers and other professionals who want to create meaningful and effective relationships with them.”

The decision came four months after Mr Walker began reviewing the department. Although he did not specifically look at failures related to Hobson’s death - that is to come in another review - his report suggests that Labour-run authority had categorically failed to improve after being rated inadequate by Ofsted in 2018. He suggested future improvement was unlikely under the current “delivery model”.

The new not-for-profit trust will be owned by the council but operate at arms-length, under the control of an entirely independent chair and board of directors which will be appointed by the government.

Mr Zahawi said: “Keeping vulnerable children safe from harm is non-negotiable. Where a council is not meeting its duty to do this, we will take action to protect children and put their needs first.”

Responding to the announcement, Bradford City Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe acknowledged the “pace of improvement needs to quicken” and said that the new trust would enable the authority to focus on “delivering consistently high-quality care”.

Brockhill was jailed for life at Bradford Crown Court in December for murdering the toddler at their home in Keighley, West Yorkshire. The youngster bled to death after suffering “catastrophic” injuries during a beating by the one-time amateur boxer.

Brockhill herself was ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years in prison, while Smith, 20, was given an eight-year sentence for allowing her daughter’s death.

The announcement that the authority would have its powers removed came just hours after the delay was announced of a potentially explosive report into the contact the authority had with Star’s family before her death.

That will now be rolled into a wider national review of safeguarding-practices which will also look into the murder of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in Solihull, and will be published in May.

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