Tyne & Wear

Sunderland care services 'failed to protect' teenage girls

Sunderland Civic Centre
Image caption Sunderland City Council's children's services have been under fire in recent years

Two teenage girls died after being failed by local care services, an independent report has concluded.

Experts were asked to examine serious case reviews in Sunderland and have now published their findings.

They highlighted communication problems, a workforce under pressure and insufficient leadership or support.

Sunderland Safeguarding Children Board (SSCB) apologised for failing to protect the youngsters.

Referred to as Child I, one of the teenagers was found unresponsive a party in Durham in December 2013.

She had been living in foster care for just over a year and concerns had been raised over her misuse of alcohol and drugs.

The girl had a history of going missing and "was being sexually exploited" by older boys.

'Devastating impact'

The other youngster, identified as Child K, was found hanging in her bedroom, also in December 2013.

The subject of a sexual exploitation order, she had been a drug and alcohol user.

At the time of her death she was living in a small residential unit having previously been in a secure facility.

The standard of the serious case reviews was of an "acceptable" standard, the independent report said.

However, it added: "We find that rapid turnover and poor retention of staff (at all levels) within children's services has had the effect of posing a serious challenge to the effectiveness of the partnership underlying the operation of the SSCB, and to the safeguarding of the children and young people of Sunderland in more general terms."

In response, Jane Held, chair of SSCB, said the organisation "wholly" accepts the findings.

She said: "The deaths of both of these girls were tragic and distressing. They had a devastating impact on everyone who knew them.

"We want to apologise strongly and unreservedly to everyone for letting them down and failing to protect them."

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