Children’s and social care services at Bradford Council are to be placed in a trust in the wake of the Star Hobson case.
The inquiry into Star’s death will now also merge into the national review of the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes in Birmingham to identify local and national improvements needed by safeguarding agencies, which is due in May 2022.
The not-for-profit trust will be owned by Bradford Council but operate at “arms-length” under the control of a new independent Chair and Board of Directors.
In 2018 Bradford’s children and social care was rated inadequate by Ofsted. Last month, Mark Douglas became Bradford Council’s third director of children’s services to quit within a turbulent three-year period.
Star Hobson was just 16 months when she was taken to hospital on 22 September 2020 after suffering a cardiac arrest and died the same day.
Following a forensic post-mortem, the extent of Star’s injuries was discovered – she had suffered significant damage to her internal organs and had a fractured skull.
Her mother, Frankie Smith, 20, was found guilty of causing or allowing her death and sentenced to eight years in jail, and Ms Smith’s partner, Savannah Brockhill, 28, was found guilty of Star’s murder and sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Six referrals were made by family members and friends to Bradford City Council between January and September 2020, including a final alert from Smith’s grandfather, Frank, weeks before Star’s death.
While the new trust is established, an independent non-executive commissioner will also be appointed to lead the council through this transition period.
The trust will work closely with council leaders but will remain operationally independent.
Education Secretary Nadhim 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.
“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.”
Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe acknowledged the “pace of improvement needs to quicken” but said the trust would “enable us to focus on delivering consistently high-quality care to the children of our district”.
The Education Secretary’s decision follows a series of recommendations set out by Bradford’s Commissioner, Steve Walker of Leeds City Council, who was appointed last September to conduct a thorough three-month review of Bradford’s children’s social care services.
In December, Conservative MP for Keighley and Ilkley Robbie Moore called on the leader of Bradford Council, Susan Hinchcliffe, and chief executive of the Council, Kersten England, to resign after failings relating to Star Hobson’s death.