Ex-Rotherham and Sheffield children’s boss to leave new job in Australia

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

The woman in charge of children’s services in Rotherham during part of the grooming scandal is to leave her new job in Australia.

Dr Sonia Sharp - who was director of children’s services in Rotherham between 2005 and 2008 and then held a similar post with Sheffield Council for four years - is now ‘seeking opportunities outside of Government’.

It follows a review of her recruitment being carried out by the Victorian Public Sector Commissioner in Australia.

The review did not look at Dr Sharp’s role in the child protection failings at Rotherham.

She had been 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 while the review was carried out.

Dr Sharp had been moved to a different role in the state’s department of health and human services while a decision was made on her future.

The review has now concluded there was no problem with Dr Sharp’s recruitment and that no ‘specific matter’ was uncovered to suggest Dr Sharp’s continued employment was ‘incompatible with the maintenance of the high standards of integrity and conduct required in the public sector in Victoria’.

But despite the findings of the report, which has not been made public in full, Dr Sharp is now due to leave the Victorian government.

Special Minister of State, Gavin Jennings said: “The Government makes no apology for raising these issues nor for seeking a thorough investigation after these very serious issues came to light.

“I am advised that Dr Sharp is now seeking opportunities outside of government and I wish her well.”

A spokesman for the Victorian Government said it would not be commenting on the review as it related to ‘private and confidential’ individual employment matters.

A copy of the review has been provided to Dr Sharp.

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