Calls for a public inquiry into the failings of Birmingham’s children’s department following the death of Khyra Ishaq have been made by Labour councillors.
The city council’s opposition Labour group has demanded a formal investigation into mistakes by social workers and education officials which resulted in the death of seven-year-old Khyra – starved by her mother and stepfather at her home in Handsworth.
Labour leader Sir Albert Bore said Birmingham children’s services director Tony Howell and cabinet member Les Lawrence had to be held accountable for the failings of their department, which have led to the deaths of 19 children from neglect or abuse in the city in the past five years.
A damning Family Court judgment concluded that Khyra would probably be alive today if council social workers and education officials had acted properly.
The judgment demolishes a claim by Mr Howell and Coun Lawrence that the council was powerless to intervene because Khyra was being educated at home.
Sir Albert (Lab Ladywood) said: “We have up until now supported the cabinet member and his directorate as they attempted to put in place measures to improve the system used to protect young people in the city.
“However, the comments made to the media following the trial of Angela Gordon and Junaid Abuhamza for causing the death of Khyra indicate such a lack of responsibility for the part played by the council in this tragic case that I had to respond.”
Sir Albert added that he was “staggered” by the Family Court judgment and would bring the findings to the attention of Education Secretary Ed Balls.
He added: “I shall be asking Mr Balls to order a public inquiry as a matter of urgency.”
He said the deaths from suspected abuse of two more children in Birmingham in recent weeks focused even more attention on the Children, Young People and Families Directorate, which was declared ‘not fit for purpose’ by education watchdog Ofsted last year and is the subject of a government improvement order.
Sir Albert went on to take a swipe at Birmingham Safeguarding Children Board’s decision to hire former Sun journalist Terry Brownbill, at £800-a-day, in an attempt to divert bad publicity over the Khyra Ishaq case.
He added: “Instead of employing spin doctors from the tabloids to improve their image in the press, that considerable amount of money spent to engage him should have been better spent on improving the service through engaging more qualified social workers or providing training to those in post.
“I find all of this difficult to stomach and am demanding a full review into children’s services.
“I want to see the cabinet member and his head of service held accountable for the failings that have led to the deaths of 19 children from neglect or abuse in the city in the past five years, while they have presided over the department.
“I have no doubt that at least some of these tragic events were preventable.”