25 January 2022

Council where Star Hobson was murdered stripped of children’s social services

25 January 2022

The council overseeing the region where 16-month-old Star Hobson was murdered has had its children’s social services removed from its control.

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

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

Frankie Smith, who was convicted of causing or allowing the death of her toddler daughter Star Hobson (West Yorkshire Police/PA) (PA Media)

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.

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.”

He said it was clear from recommendations made by Bradford’s children’s commissioner that the council needed “support to improve”, adding he was “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”.

He continued: “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.”

Savannah Brockhill, who was convicted of murdering Star Hobson (West Yorkshire Police/PA) (PA Media)

On Monday, the review into agencies’ involvement with Star, who was murdered by her mother’s girlfriend, was delayed.

Publication of an investigation into authorities’ contact with the toddler 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.

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 Government announced that the independent Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel would now “consolidate the Local Child Safeguarding Practice Review for Star Hobson into its national review of the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes” to identify the improvements needed by local and national child safeguarding agencies. This will be published in May 2022.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, leader of Bradford Council, said that she welcomed this news, adding: “It is something I called for when the verdict was announced in December.

“These are two shocking murders and it is vital that learning from both these cases is used to help safeguarding agencies up and down the country to better protect children. We owe this to Star and her family.”

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