Socialist Worker

New report into Rotherham child abuse excuses top council officials and police

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2571

A street in the South Yorkshire town

A street in the South Yorkshire town (Pic: Guy Smallman)


No senior council officials should be held accountable for failing to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham, according to a new report.

Six reports commissioned by Rotherham council were published last week. They follow Professor Jay’s 2014 report that estimated that at least 1,400 children had suffered Child Sexual Explointation (CSE) in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

The main report found that in that time, “Most senior officers with responsibility for the safeguarding of children knew that there were issues with CSE.” The council established Risky Business, a group to support vulnerable girls, in 1997 because of CSE concerns.

The report conceded, “A number of opportunities to take early decisive action to tackle the issue were missed.”

But it said the problem was “systemic” and found “no culpable behaviour which could now justify any form of legal action”. Some 27 council officials refused to be interviewed for the reports. Some of those who were interviewed made unexpected claims.

The report found it “very surprising” that Phil Rogers said he had “no knowledge of CSE in Rotherham”. He held overall responsibility for the youth service and Risky Business.

The authors did not have access to all relevant data as some “appeared to be missing”.

But they said there is “no reason to believe that any documentation has been withheld or deliberately concealed”. And they are “confident that the broad thrust of our findings would not have been significantly different even if all of the papers we had asked for had been found”.

No disciplinary or capability proceedings are warranted “in respect of any senior manager currently in post at the council”.

Home Office researcher Adele Gladman was employed by Rotherham council to investigate CSE in 2001. She said that in 2002 all data relating to her report was removed from filing cabinets at Risky Business.

She also said a computer had been accessed, some files deleted and fake minutes of meetings created.

A Risky Business worker corroborated her account. The report concluded, “We do not believe such a ‘raid’ on the premises of Risky Business took place.”

Yet a separate report specifically into the allegation disagreed. “It is likely files were removed from the Risky Business Office and computer records impaired,” it said.

It added that a partial copy of the report may have been found that “includes the identity of significant persons”. This “could have provided a motivation to remove records relating to Risky Business work,” it said.


Sexist attitudes came from the cops and the council

The reports found evidence that some council employees treated reports of abuse as “exaggerated”. One former children’s home manager told the report that “you had to take a bit of hysteria alongside” information provided by Risky Business.

There is also evidence of a “dismissive attitude towards the young women” suffering abuse. Some social workers and cops deemed victims to be making a “lifestyle choice” or being in a “consensual relationship”.

Jacqueline Wilson, former Head of Children’s Services said she asked South Yorkshire police to carry on surveillance on suspects, but they said it was too expensive.

One former council employee said they were on the ‘verge of some major disaster’ because of their resources. Some have argued that Rotherham council feared tackling Asian abusers because of political correctness. A number of interviewees disputed this.

Jacqueline Wilson said Rotherham council’s members were “the least PC people I’d come across in a long time”.

Sonia Sharp, former Strategic Director of Children and Young People’s Services, said, “I would characterise Rotherham as having more of a racist culture than a politically correct culture.”

There were sexist attitudes within the council and pornography was discovered “on the laptops of three Members”. The report said, “It is not difficult to see how this may have impacted on the council’s response to CSE.”


Sexual abuse in residential units 'not untypical'

One of the reports investigated fifteen cases of abused children.

Independent consultant Jean Imray found “insufficient grounds to proceed with any action against any individual practitioner or team leader”.

But she said that this wasn’t the case with Child E. She said on initial inspection there was “evidence of significant culpability by at least two social care professionals”.

Child E came from an abusive family and was placed in a residential unit where she was raped. She was then moved to another unit where she was raped again by another resident.

“It is hard to understand why the council continued to place children in these units knowing that they would not be safe,” Imray said.

Child E was 12 at the time. She wasn’t allocated a social worker for over six months after she had been raped twice.

Child E began “for the first time exhibiting behaviour strongly associated with CSE”.

Imray said there was “evidence of negligence”. She added that abuse by adults in residential care was “not untypical”.

She continued, “The total absence of evidence of thinking what life was like for some of the children was one of the most striking features of the reviews of these cases.”


 


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