Councils' response to child exploitation ‘inexcusably slow'

10 Jun 13
MPs have slammed two councils for being ‘inexcusably slow’ to realise local children were falling prey to widespread and organised sexual abuse rings.

In the wake of some high-profile criminal cases, the Commons home affairs select committee today issued a report on child sexual exploitation and the response to localised grooming.

Rochdale and Rotherham metropolitan borough councils were singled out for their slow response, especially given many of the victims were children in their care. ‘This is due in large part to a woeful lack of professional curiosity,’ the committee said.

‘It is no defence for Rochdale and Rotherham managers to say that they had no knowledge of what was taking place, as they are ultimately responsible and must be held accountable for the appalling consequences of their indifference to the suffering of vulnerable children.’

The police and Crown Prosecution Service should also bear responsibility for the way vulnerable children were left unprotected, the MPs said. Reforms to the court process should be introduced, with specialist courts for child exploitation cases and specific training for judges.

All local agencies were urged to ensure that any team tackling child sexual exploitation should have sufficient funds for preventative work.

Committee chair Keith Vaz said the inquiry had been a harrowing and shocking one.

‘We were shocked to learn that it is still happening, in every part of the country,’ he said.

‘The quality of the response to the abuse depends on where you live and that is inexcusable. We must not accept assurances that the situation is improving without hard evidence.’

He added that officials who failed to act should not be allowed to evade responsibility by taking early retirement or resigning and they should not be paid compensation of any kind.

A spokeswoman for Rotherham Borough Council said: ‘Having just received the report, we need time to consider and reflect on the important issues raised to assess how this can help us to build on the significant improvements that have been made since 2009 and hope to provide a more detailed response very shortly.

‘Working with our partners, including South Yorkshire Police, we continue to give top priority to tackling this horrific crime and to protecting the children and young people of Rotherham from the people who will use any means at their disposal to cause them harm.’

At Rochdale, Gladys Rhodes-White, executive director of children’s services, said the committee’s findings echoed the findings of the council’s own independent review.

‘Clearly the agencies involved at the time did not work together adequately to tackle this abuse from the outset and council services missed opportunities to offer assistance. While we cannot change the past, where the council has fallen short, we have certainly made major changes to the way we now tackle the issues, which have also been well documented.’


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