Star Hobson murder: Bradford Council stripped of control over children's social care services

·2-min read
Star Hobson - West Yorkshire Police /PA
Star Hobson - West Yorkshire Police /PA

Bradford Council has lost control of its children's social care services in the wake of the Star Hobson case.

The Government announced on Tuesday that Bradford Council's children's social care services would be lifted into a trust to "drive rapid improvements" following recommendations from Nadhim Zahawi, the Education Secretary, to Bradford's children's services commissioner.

The council had contact with the family of 16-month-old Star before she was murdered by her mother's girlfriend.

"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," 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.

"These professionals take highly complex decisions each day to protect children, and I am grateful for the effort that goes into each one."

The trust will be owned by the council but run at "arms-length", with a new independent chairman and board of directors.

Council leaders 'voluntarily agreed to the move'

The Government said the decision followed "positive" talks with council leaders, who had "voluntarily agreed to the move" in light of the challenges it has faced since its children's services department was rated "inadequate" by the watchdog Ofsted in 2018.

On Monday, the review into the authorities' involvement with Star prior to her death was delayed.

Publication of the investigation was put back as Bradford Partnership said a Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review, which was due to be published at the end of January, needed further work, including making sure her family's views are fully reflected.

Savannah Brockhill - West Yorkshire Police/PA
Savannah Brockhill - West Yorkshire Police/PA

Bouncer and security guard Savannah Brockhill, 28, was jailed for life at Bradford Crown Court in December for murdering Star at her home in Keighley, West Yorkshire in September 2020.

Star's mother Frankie Smith, 20, was sentenced to eight years for causing or allowing the youngster's death.

The collaborative, council-owned trust model has been used before in other local areas, including most recently in Sunderland, one of the most deprived councils in England. The services rose from inadequate to outstanding in three years.

Other trusts to run children’s services on behalf of an under-performing council are: Doncaster, Birmingham, Slough, Sandwell, Worcestershire and Reading.

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