Ex-Rotherham Council children’s director under review by new Australian bosses

Dr Sonia Sharp, formerly of Rotherham Council and Sheffield City Council
Dr Sonia Sharp, formerly of Rotherham Council and Sheffield City Council

A former Rotherham Council children’s director has been moved from her new job in Australia – with a report into her recruitment being considered by her bosses.

Sonia Sharp – who was director of children’s services in Rotherham between 2005 and 2008 and then held a similar post in Sheffield for four years – was moved from her job as deputy secretary of early childhood and school education in Victoria after the child sexual exploitation scandal was revealed last year.

A report into her recruitment has now been completed by the Victorian Public Sector Commissioner and Dr Sharp has been moved to a different role in the state’s department of health and human services while a decision is made on her future.

A Victorian Education Department spokesman said: “The department is currently considering the commissioner’s report into Dr Sharp’s recruitment.

“While this process is under way, Dr Sharp is working at the Department of Health and Human Services.”

In August, following the publication of the Jay Report which revealed at least 1,400 children had been exploited between 1997 and 2013 – with police and council bosses aware, but failing to act – Dr Sharp was backed by her Australian employers.

Richard Bolt, secretary at Victoria’s department of education and early childhood development, said at the time: “I have no doubt Sonia tackled the issue of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham with maximum commitment, professionalism and focus.”

However, in December, education minister James Merlino asked the commissioner to review her recruitment.

Following the publication of the Jay Report, Dr Sharp said: “You can’t be a director of children’s services and not take responsibility for what happens to children.

“Nine years ago, our greatest challenge was to change the predominant view these young people were ‘promiscuous teenagers in consensual relationships’, rather than victims of child abuse.

“I regret every case of exploitation of vulnerable girls that was not prevented, but feel strongly our collective efforts led to gradual but essential improvements in the situation for many young people.”