Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation

Published Tuesday, 26th August 2014
The Town Hall in Rotherham
Rotherham Town Hall

The Council's response to the Independent Inquiry from Alexis Jay:

Martin Kimber, Chief Executive of Rotherham Borough Council, fully accepts the findings of the report, and apologises to the young people and families who were let down.

Independent reviewer, Alexis Jay OBE, reaches a clear conclusion that the Council and partners could and should have done more to protect children at risk.

In responding to today’s report, Mr Kimber has apologised to the young people who were let down by services, and has accepted the report and its recommendations in their entirety.

“The report does not make comfortable reading in its account of the horrific experiences of some young people in the past, and I would like to reiterate our sincere apology to those who were let down when they needed help,” said Mr Kimber.

“I commissioned this Independent Review to understand fully what went wrong, why it went wrong and to ensure that the lessons learned in Rotherham mean these mistakes can never happen again.

"The report confirms that our services have improved significantly over the last five years and are stronger today than ever before.  This is important because it allows me to reassure young people and families that should anyone raise concerns we will take them seriously and provide them with the support they need.

"However, that must not overshadow – and certainly does not excuse – the finding that for a significant amount of time the council and its partners could and should have done more to protect young people from what must be one of the most horrific forms of abuse imaginable."

The report points to serious failings, both within and between all organisations involved.

These are attributed almost without exception to senior managers in child protection services and elected members within the Council and senior police officers, not to frontline social or youth workers who are acknowledged in the report as repeatedly raising serious concerns about the nature and extent of this kind of child abuse.

In brief summary, these failings include:

  • Poor leadership from senior managers in child protection services and elected members, and a lack of communication between the two on the issue of child sexual exploitation
  • A perceived ‘lack of interest’ in, and understanding of, grooming as a model of child abuse amongst senior managers in child protection services and elected members 
  • Failings within organisational culture and processes, which meant victims were not heard or believed, and that the concerns of frontline workers were not acknowledged or acted upon at the most senior levels 
  • The perception that a ‘macho and bullying’ culture existed in the Council up until 2009, and that this dampened the ability for child sexual exploitation to be properly discussed 
  • Artificial ‘professional barriers’ and also ‘professional jealousies’ between organisations which prevented effective action
  • Denial that such events could happen in Rotherham, concerns around reputational risk and a perception that issues of ethnicity in child sexual exploitation were ‘played down’ by senior managers in child protection services and elected members
  • A series of reports commissioned and available to both the Council and the Police – flagging up serious concerns around the scale and nature of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham – do not appear to have been used effectively to influence the strategic or operational response of either organisation.

These failings amounted to a series of missed opportunities to understand the scale of child sexual exploitation, dating back to 2002. 

"The report recognises that today we have a well-trained, hard-working and conscientious workforce which is passionate about protecting young people and improving services," added Mr Kimber.

The report acknowledges the placing of children's safeguarding services in Government intervention in 2009 as a turning point for the authority.  

It finds that the Improvement Notice was a trigger for a concerted and sustained effort by the Council and partner agencies to ensure that services were re-modelled, and that protecting young people from child sexual exploitation was a priority.  Ofsted lifted the Improvement Notice in January 2011.

The findings of the report confirm a series of recent inspections and reviews by other bodies which have been carried out since 2009.  These have all found the Council's services have improved since this time, and continue to do so.

Mr Kimber said: "It is clear that services are stronger and better co-ordinated now than ever before.  They are not perfect, but they are fit for purpose, are significantly improved and continue to improve through close multi-agency working.

"The report contains 15 recommendations, all of which are intended to secure further improvements in our services.  The delivery of these improvements will be swift and effective, and where they require a response from several agencies we will work with our partners.

"In terms of our organisational culture the report indicates that the organisation is different today from that which was perceived for much of the period under review: issues of bullying have been addressed and it no longer shapes the atmosphere in which the Council conducts business."

The findings of Independent Inquiry will be shared to inform national learning about child sexual exploitation.

Mr Kimber added:  "That services are stronger today sadly does not mean that young people in Rotherham will never be subject to sexual exploitation.  This awful crime happens in every town and city and there continues to be many predators intent on harming young people.

"Nationally we hope this report will be valuable to help agencies keep more young people safe.

"In Rotherham we must continue to be vigilant, and together with our partners - and our communities - we all have a responsibility to protect our young people from such harm."

The report – together with the Chief Executive's response to it – will be considered by the Council’s Cabinet on Wednesday 3 September 2014.

More about the inquiry (including full report)