Joyce Thacker, one of the leading figures facing calls to quit over Rotherham’s child sexual exploitation scandal, is now off work on sick leave.
The head of children’s services has been off work at Rotherham Borough Council since Monday, a spokesman for the authority confirmed today.
He said the reason for her sick leave is ‘between her and her doctor’ and added it is not yet known when she will return to work.
A Rotherham Council worker, who did not wish to be named, said staff had been sent an email by chief executive Martin Kimber about Ms Thacker’s absence from work.
The employee said: “I think some serious questions need to be asked about this. The email was just sent out by Martin Kimber saying Joyce Thacker had gone off on long-term sick with immediate effect. Of course she’ll be on full pay. It’s unbelievable.”
Ms Thacker, who is paid £130,000 per year, has faced repeated calls to quit following the publication of the Jay report, which revealed at least 1,400 children in the town had been sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013 and there had been ‘serious failings’ by the council and the police in protecting victims.
At a Home Affairs Select Committee hearing last week, she said she would not be standing down as she had worked ‘tirelessly’ to tackle the issue in Rotherham.
She said: “I have given that a lot of thought and I am not stepping aside, for the simple reason I am accountable to the people and the children and families in Rotherham.
“I could have done more. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. But I don’t accept there was a full dereliction of my duty.”
She told the hearing she could ‘recollect’ being shown reports in mid-2000s about abuse problems in the town, when she was involved with Risky Business, a youth outreach programme that highlighted concerns about grooming problems in Rotherham.
But she added the Jay Report’s estimate of 1,400 victims had been ‘deeply shocking’ to her.
Ms Thacker has been head of children’s services since 2008 and was deputy head for two years before that.
Reacting to the news of Ms Thacker’s sick leave today, Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Home Affairs committee said she should resign.
He said: “Ms Thacker will still receive her six figure salary, and will be able to return to her position in the near future. This leaves children’s services in Rotherham in limbo at a time when they need positive and strong leadership.
“Ms Thacker should take note of the other resignations and follow suit, and if she does not, then Rotherham Council should make the decision for her.”