Failed children’s services bosses – some ousted over major scandals – have repeatedly bounced back into similar six-figure council jobs in a ‘revolving door of failure’.
Several officials forced to leave their positions after devastating revelations about the care of youngsters have slipped seamlessly into near-identical roles at different local authorities, a Daily Mail investigation reveals.
Some picked up huge payoffs despite overseeing services that deteriorated to ‘inadequate’. Others failed to make improvements at already struggling councils.
One council boss has toured the country working at six failing local authorities in 17 years. Under his watch, councils have been marred by scandals from financial mismanagement to the murder of a vulnerable teenager.
At another crumbling department, a director was paid a basic salary of £138,000 while two children were beaten to death following ‘lost opportunities’ to protect them.
She was swiftly moved to another local authority – which was already rated ‘inadequate’ – where she was paid another six-figure salary.
One head of children’s services was handed a £100,000 severance payment following a probe by watchdog Ofsted which found vulnerable children were being left for too long in situations of ‘chronic neglect’. She is now heading up another council department.
The social service system has come under scrutiny after it was revealed the former head of the council department that failed Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was handed the role despite having run another operation – only 60 miles away – into the ground.
Arthur, six, from Solihull, died from brain trauma in June 2020 after he was beaten by his stepmother Emma Tustin.
The social service system has come under scrutiny after it was revealed the former head of the council department that failed Arthur Labinjo-Hughes was handed the role despite having run another operation – only 60 miles away – into the ground. Arthur, six, from Solihull, died from brain trauma in June 2020 after he was beaten by his stepmother Emma Tustin
Louise Rees, 60, who resigned shortly after Arthur’s death, moved into the role from Stoke-on-Trent. That council fell from ‘requires improvement’ when she began to ‘inadequate’, the lowest Ofsted rating, shortly after her departure. She refused to comment
Louise Rees, 60, who resigned shortly after Arthur’s death, moved into the role from Stoke-on-Trent. That council fell from ‘requires improvement’ when she began to ‘inadequate’, the lowest Ofsted rating, shortly after her departure. She refused to comment.
A Mail audit of the 20 worst-rated local authorities found they had run through an average of three directors of children’s services in the past five years – with one council burning through six.
It raises questions over whether the current system – which sees the same key players bouncing from one inflated salary to another – is fit for purpose.
Last night MPs and campaigners accused the local authorities of ‘rewarding failure’.
Tory MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the Commons education committee, said: ‘There seems to be a revolving door of failure rather than proper accountability.
‘Why is it that individuals who have failed these children are moving from job to job with whacking salaries? There should be proper sanctions for those who fail. They should take responsibility and face the consequences.’
Martin Barrow, a foster carer who campaigns for improvements in children’s services, said: ‘Councils are rewarding failure. Our children deserve so much better than this.’
Charlotte Ramsden, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: ‘Improvement work is hard, and it takes a long time, working alongside Ofsted, government departments and local political leaders. This is a much wider and more complex issue than the role and effectiveness of the director alone.’
Here we reveal the roll-call of rewards for failures.
Two babies killed on her watch
Lesley Hagger was at the helm of Northamptonshire Council on a package worth £165,000 when two children were killed by men the authorities knew to be dangerous.
Dylan Tiffin-Brown, two, was beaten to death in December 2017 by his father Raphael Kennedy, 31, despite repeated warnings the boy was in danger.
Evelyn-Rose Muggleton, nine months, was murdered by her mother’s drug-dealing boyfriend, Ryan Coleman, 21, in April 2018.
Lesley Hagger was at the helm of Northamptonshire Council on a package worth £165,000 when two children were killed by men the authorities knew to be dangerous
The baby had suffered 31 separate injuries despite warnings about Coleman’s ‘significant’ criminal history.
In 2018, Miss Hagger moved to the same role at Sandwell Council – already rated ‘inadequate’ – where she was paid £145,413.
She said the last Ofsted inspection while she was at Northamptonshire Council was ‘a positive report regarding progress being made’. But an inspection three months after she left found services had ‘significantly declined in the past two years’.
The replacement on £1,100 a day
Sally Hodges took over at Northamptonshire from Miss Hagger for the rate of £1,100 per day – equivalent to more than £250,000 a year.
An inspection months after her arrival found hundreds of children did not have a social worker and were waiting months to have their needs assessed. It found children were being put at risk and housed in ‘unsafe and unsuitable’ settings.
It did state that the new senior management team had made ‘some key improvements’.
She left Northamptonshire in October 2019. The authority’s services have since been taken over by a trust.
Mrs Hodges previously headed up the department at Solihull Council. She left a year before the council failed Arthur. She declined to comment.
£100,000 payout for inadequacy
Helen Watson left as director of children’s services at Middlesbrough Council after Ofsted’s 2019 report rated children’s services ‘inadequate’. It said the quality of care had ‘deteriorated’ and there were ‘serious and widespread failures that leave children in harmful situations for too long’.
During her three-and-a-half years in the role, the department was downgraded from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘inadequate’. Her final pay packet – including severance payments worth £100,000 – totalled £228,863.
Miss Watson took up the same role at Nottingham Council, started a consulting business and is now at the helm of Wokingham Borough Council’s children’s services. She did not respond to requests for comment.
Helen Watson left as director of children’s services at Middlesbrough Council after Ofsted’s 2019 report rated children’s services ‘inadequate’
‘Retired’ boss touring top jobs
Career council chief Jim Leivers has been at the helm of a string of failing services.
He took early retirement from his role as chief executive of North East Lincolnshire Council in 2004 following a damning report into the authority’s management and finances. The council was branded one of the worst 15 local authorities in the country.
The 69-year-old has since flitted between at least six local authorities where he has earned up to £236,000 a year.
As head of children’s services at Oxfordshire County Council, Mr Leivers apologised to hundreds of children who were gang-raped, beaten and tortured by paedophile gangs while social workers and police effectively turned a blind eye.
Career council chief Jim Leivers has been at the helm of a string of failing services
He did not work at the council when the abuse took place.
But one girl, who was 13 when she was first abused by a gang, accused Mr Leivers, on £144,821 a year, of lying about the support it has offered to a victim and her family.
The council also came under scrutiny when he was in charge for failings following the murder of vulnerable teenager Jayden Parkinson, 17, strangled to death by her violent ex-boyfriend Ben Blakely in 2013. The authority was rated ‘good’ by Ofsted in 2014 while Mr Leivers was in charge. He took an exit payment of £73,866 in January 2017.
Mr Leivers was also interim head of children’s services at failing Sandwell, Surrey and Wokingham councils – where he was paid £62,000 for two months’ work.
These councils were rated inadequate before he took on the roles. Surrey slightly improved its rating to ‘requires improvement’ during his tenure.
He is now working for ‘inadequate’ St Helens Borough Council. An Ofsted report published in January criticised the children’s department’s ‘ineffective management oversight’.
Mr Leivers said he has a ‘proven track record of improving failing children’s services’ and his salary is ‘commensurate’ with the role at similar councils. He added: ‘We all need to recognise how difficult this job is and how services need our support and development not just criticism.’
£52,000 payoff with children ‘at risk’
Steve Kay was handed compensation after a whistleblower alleged hundreds of children were being put at risk of abuse and neglect.
A social worker said staff at North East Lincolnshire Council were managing up to 65 cases each and a three-year-old girl was found with drugs including heroin in her system after social workers failed to check on her for months. The council said at the time the figures were taken while there were ‘issues with data reporting’ and ‘do not represent a true picture of the support given’.
Weeks after the damning claims were published, Mr Kay stepped down from his £100,000 job as director of children and family services. He left in 2019 with £52,480 ‘compensation for loss of office’.
Steve Kay was handed compensation after a whistleblower alleged hundreds of children were being put at risk of abuse and neglect
The final Ofsted visit before his departure found standards had fallen since the department was rated ‘good’ in 2017. Inspectors found children ‘at risk’ and ‘significant weaknesses in the quality of services’. The next full inspection, in October 2021, rated the services ‘inadequate’.
Mr Kay is now in a £85,000 job at Rochdale Council as assistant director for early help and schools. A spokesman said his departure from North East Lincolnshire was ‘not connected to any inspection or individual case’.
Three flawed councils on the CV
The assistant director of Bradford Council is no stranger to local authorities with the worst possible Ofsted rating.
David Johnston was director of children’s services at Buckinghamshire Council, which was rated ‘inadequate’ in 2014, six months before he began. His total remuneration was £178,000.
It received the same rating shortly after he left in 2017 with improvements deemed ‘inconsistent and too slow’.
David Johnston was director of children’s services at Buckinghamshire Council, which was rated ‘inadequate’ in 2014, six months before he began. His total remuneration was £178,000
He then worked at the failing Powys Council in Wales after it had received a damning inspection report. Mr Johnston has been at Bradford Council since August 2021. The council was rated ‘inadequate’ in 2018. Last year it was lambasted for failing Star Hobson, 16 months, who was murdered by her mother’s girlfriend in September 2020.
Bradford Council said the 2017 Buckinghamshire inspection found ‘managers [were] taking “effective action to respond to weaknesses”.’
It said Care Inspectorate Wales described significant improvements to Powys Council ‘in certain areas of practice … at the time that David worked there’.
Mr Johnston said that ‘turning around failing services in large complex organisations can be difficult as the causes of the failures can be complex and entrenched in the culture’.
Another failing council-hopper
Children’s services boss Andrew Dempsey headed up two inadequate services but failed to make any significant improvements.
In the past ten years he has been at the helm of St Helens Borough Council and Torbay Council. In the latter, an Ofsted report claimed the ‘pace of change has been too slow’ and criticised ‘fundamental weaknesses’ in management.
He currently works as director of partnerships and strategy at Gloucestershire Council, which is rated inadequate. Mr Dempsey was paid six figures in all three roles and now earns £107,000. He declined to comment.
Children’s services boss Andrew Dempsey headed up two inadequate services but failed to make any significant improvements
Tragic Logan council was warned a year before his murder
By JAMES TOZER AND LIZ HULL
The social services department that failed to protect Logan Mwangi was warned it was letting down children at risk a year before his murder, it emerged last night.
Inspectors told Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) in August 2020 that children were coming off the child protection register ‘too soon’.
Officials from the Care Inspectorate Wales watchdog also warned it could ‘not be confident’ that children at risk of neglect or abuse ‘were visited frequently enough’.
Eighteen months earlier council bosses admitted they also faced compensation claims from ‘a number of families’ suing for failing to take children into care earlier.
The social services department that failed to protect Logan Mwangi was warned it was letting down children at risk a year before his murder, it emerged last night
The council’s head of social services, Claire Marchant, has refused to comment. She joined BCBC in October 2020 – her third job at a different council in five years. She did not respond yesterday
Logan spent seven months on Bridgend’s child protection register, but was removed and downgraded to a ‘child in need’ weeks before his death at five last July. On Thursday, his mother, Angharad Williamson, 31, stepfather John Cole, 40, and a 14-year-old boy who cannot be named were convicted of his murder and trying to hide his death.
The downgrading meant social workers saw Logan less, despite warnings from the 14-year-old’s foster parents that he threatened to kill Logan, which officials denied.
There were 13 serious case reviews into child neglect at BCBC from 2009 to 2013. Now Logan’s death has prompted a new inquiry – a child practice review – led by Cwm Taf Morgannwg Safeguarding Board, which includes experts from the council, police, probation service and NHS.
The council’s head of social services, Claire Marchant, has refused to comment. She joined BCBC in October 2020 – her third job at a different council in five years. She did not respond yesterday.
The investigation is expected to examine missed opportunities to intervene in Logan’s care, including instances when Williamson lied to social workers about injuries Logan suffered. It will also focus on the lack of communication between his social worker, Gaynor Rush, and her colleague Debbie Williams, responsible for the teenager convicted of his murder.