Posted: 3 September, 2013 at 3:02 pm
I’ve been very disturbed by some of the details in reports about cases of child abuse and exploitation that took place locally during the last decade or so.
In January the council asked South Yorkshire Police to conduct a historical review of all potential cases, which I welcomed and hope will help ensure that any perpetrators of such sexual exploitation do not escape justice. The council is working closely and fully with the police on this.
In addition, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Shaun Wright has now announced that the Chief Constable is setting up an additional team of detectives and other specialists to investigate allegations of historic abuse and importantly that the independent Chief Crown Prosecutor will also conduct a review of historic local cases in which the Crown Prosecution Service was involved.
However, beyond this fresh work with victims, their families and other evidence on past abuse I am most concerned that we can all be confident that the action of agencies and support for potential or actual victims from now onwards is the very best possible.
The council has acknowledged its own safeguarding service was not good enough before 2009. In the following years significant changes and improvements have been made and this strengthening was supported by an Ofsted inspection of arrangements for the protection of children in July 2012 which said: “Services for children and young people have improved significantly in Rotherham and as a result children and young people are being better protected from harm.” [http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/rotherham]
I am also aware of other recent steps the council have taken to reinforce the expertise on its safeguarding board, strengthen the specialism of its CSE team and improve its systems of professional and family liaison. Despite the Ofsted report, I think the council could go further to commission an independent external review of their current policies, service arrangements and skills to ensure that children in any risk or case of sexual exploitation will get the very best support and intervention. I have been discussing this with senior council people because in my view this would help the council and reassure everyone else locally that the problems in the past have been put right.
The PCC has now asked for a similar audit by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary who will conduct a review of the process and structures South Yorkshire Police currently have in place to investigate allegations of CSE. I welcome this initiative and I have written to the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Tom Winsor, to ask for confirmation of the detailed action he is going to take and the timescale for this review.
Any victims now and in the future must be confident they will get support without the judgements there were in the past, receive treatment from the police that is sympathetic and ‘on their side’ and that abusers will feel the full force of the law.