Rotherham MBC statement
Published Tuesday 25th September 12
In response to recent articles in The Times newspaper, Rotherham MBC has issued the following statements:
Joyce Thacker, Strategic Director of Children and Young People's Services said: "Rotherham Council, working with local partner agencies and the community, is fully committed to tackling sexual exploitation - a commitment which has led to the conviction of men involved in this despicable crime as well as support for victims and potential victims and the education of hundreds of young people about the dangers of sexual exploitation.
"There will always be those people who will attempt to harm our young people and carry out these horrendous crimes but we, along with our partners and communities, will do whatever we can to bring them to justice."
"It has been well documented before that the Council along with partner agencies have been aware of the issue and been working with young people for some years now. Rotherham was one of the first areas in the region to have a dedicated team, originally set up in 1997, to work with the victims, or potential victims, of sexual exploitation and help support criminal investigations. The service also worked with local schools and community groups to educate young people about the issue.
"Multi-agency work in Rotherham over a number of years has led to successful convictions and support for the victims. These are highly complex cases and situations and some work with individuals did not lead to court cases for a variety of reasons, but those young people have been supported to understand the situation they have found themselves in and assisted by many services including long-standing support from groups such as Youth Start and our local Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service.
"Our work was commended recently by Ofsted in their review of child protection in Rotherham where inspectors highlighted the 'Good collaborative working between the Council and the police to tackle sexual exploitation.' The inspection team also commended the positive improvements made generally to child protection services in Rotherham."
"In many respects Rotherham's services are well ahead of other areas in having secured convictions and having a dedicated team which focuses on the issue of sexual exploitation, carrying out preventative work, education and assisting with criminal investigations.
"Colleagues from other areas of the country are coming to Rotherham to look at the work we do and how they can use our knowledge to help tackle their issues. We hosted an event for professionals across the region to share our learning from a recent case, Operation Central, which led to the convictions of five men. Rotherham is also a committed member of the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, again helping share expertise and knowledge across the country. That link is also helping drive changes to our service in what is a developing area of work across the country."
Councillor Roger Stone, Leader of Rotherham MBC, said: "As I said after the publication of our recent Ofsted report into child protection, we will not tolerate sexual exploitation and we will continue to work closely with South Yorkshire Police to bring people to justice for these horrible crimes against our vulnerable young people.
"The impression given in the national media that we have not acted to tackle sexual exploitation could not be further from the truth. This authority has been committed to working on this problem for a long time and has had a dedicated team working with young girls for around fifteen years.
"We accept that in some cases in the past when dealing with these highly complex situations, some young people did not get the right support. Since then we have learnt from those cases and developed the work of our services so they are more aware of the issues around sexual exploitation. Subsequently this has brought people to court, or in cases where convictions couldn't be secured we have carried out work which has disrupted the activity of potential or alleged perpetrators.
"This work has been done away from the glare of the media spotlight in the heart of our communities, in our schools and with the support of local people who are as appalled as we are by these crimes.
"As part of those efforts in the past couple of weeks, we have secured regional funding for work around tackling sexual exploitation. That has the support of my fellow Council Leaders across Yorkshire and the Humber and we are now looking at how to use the funding effectively so we can get to the heart of the issue across the region.
"There is still more work to be done locally, regionally and nationally but our commitment in Rotherham to keeping vulnerable people safe and well is our top priority."
Councillor Paul Lakin, Cabinet Member for Services for Children, Young People and Families added: "There is no question that we will do whatever we can to protect our young people from harm in whatever form that threat takes.
"The Council has already acknowledged publicly that there have been lessons learnt from previous work, cases and investigations and that the support offered to a small number of vulnerable young people has not always reached the high standards we always look to provide. From that learning, improvements have been made and new services introduced and those developments will continue.
"Following the recommendations from a Serious Case Review, inspections and our own learning on other cases, the sexual exploitation team has recently evolved from the original youth service project into the new multi-agency service to improve preventative and support work along with boosting efforts to investigate cases and bring people to justice.
"We are also maintaining our major investment in protecting children at a time when public sector budgets are under increasing pressure. We have pledged our commitment by prioritising the amount of money being put into safeguarding services along with prevention and early help work with families to help ensure they get the support they need.
"Sexual predators do come from different sections of the community and are criminals who need to be brought to justice regardless of their background. We have worked closely with communities and community leaders across Rotherham in recent years to enlist their support in helping to tackle some of these issues and to educate people about sexual exploitation. The response has been very positive and our commitment to continue to tackle this issue is shared by local agencies and our communities."
In addition, South Yorkshire Police has issued its own response to the Times articles.