The woman in charge of children’s services at Rotherham Council has said she will not quit over the child sex exploitation scandal.
Joyce Thacker, strategic director for children, young people and families, said she has been part of a senior management team that has ‘transformed’ child protection services since 2010.
Council chief executive Martin Kimber has also offered his support to Mrs Thacker - saying she is ‘part of the solution’ to Rotherham’s problems.
Mrs Thacker joined the council as senior director of services for children and young people in 2006 and started in her current role in July 2008.
She received an OBE in 2006 for services to young people and previously hit headlines in 2012 for her decision to remove three foster children from a couple who were members of UKIP.
Mrs Thacker said: “Like most people, I feel appalled at the horrific experiences which many of our young people went through, and I add my sincere apologies to those who were let down by our services in the past. It lays bare what went wrong, and there are simply no excuses.
“With regard to my own position, when I took up my current role in July 2008 I made child sexual exploitation an immediate priority, presenting two reports about the issue to the Cabinet Member for Children and Young People in July 2008 and November 2008.
“I did, and continue to, take that responsibility very seriously, and the report author is clear that child protection services have been transformed since 2010 - under the watch of the current senior management team.
“These are very difficult times and we need all of the experience and ability we can bring to bear. The best way I can exercise my responsibility is to drive forward the report’s recommendations, and make sure young people in Rotherham are even safer.
“Whilst I was deeply distressed to read about the horrific consequences of past mistakes, I was heartened that the report has recognised I have made a difference, and it strengthens my resolve to better protect the children and young people of this borough. We owe that to them.
“Let’s remember that this is about the victims and how we as a council continue to build on the strong foundation of significant improvements laid out in the report. Now is the time to move forward as a community to ensure together we are doing the very best for our young people.”
Mr Kimber added: “To make sure the mistakes of the past are not repeated I need a really strong team around me to build on the strong foundations we have already laid.
“Our primary consideration is making sure that the victims of exploitation are supported, that our young people are protected and that the failings identified in the report are firmly consigned to the past.
“Alexis Jay has made it very clear to me in her report that Joyce Thacker is part of the solution in achieving better services.
“Joyce is dedicated and passionate about protecting and working with young people. Very many of the improvements made since 2010 can be attributed to Joyce’s leadership, and her supportive and driving nature.
“Indeed Ms Jay has acknowledged that staff described Joyce as ‘having provided excellent support during a difficult period’ to improve frontline child protection services.
“If we start to lose those good people, we will be in very grave danger of doing the very thing we have been criticised for – failing to protect Rotherham’s children and young people in the past.
“There is no evidence in the report that leads me to conclude Joyce Thacker was implicated in suppressing information or failing to react appropriately to emerging issues around child sexual exploitation.”