Rochdale council has confirmed it will launch a serious case review into the sexual exploitation of young girls in the borough.
It follows the imprisonment in May of nine men, convicted of grooming girls as young as 13 in Rochdale. The gang bought their victims gifts and plied them with alcohol before forcing them to have sex with multiple men. The high-profile investigation by Greater Manchester police identified more than 40 potential victims.
The review will examine the role played by local agencies and safeguarding professionals, from the experiences of four young people involved, to establish what further lessons can be learned to improve the way children are safeguarded in Rochdale.
There will be particular reference to the early help that was available for the young people, how referrals of concern were escalated and how services were accessed.
As Community Care reported earlier this week, the authority is due to publish a number of reviews into the case, including a ‘learning event’ review.
Lynne Jones, chair of Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board, said: “This month we will publish findings of the initial learning event undertaken to ensure organisations looked critically at the actions they had taken individually and with partner agencies.
"The review assisted the board and organisations in identifying changes that needed to be made, and supported the development of the local Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy and action plan.”
Jones said “significant progress” had been made in the way organisations recognise and respond to children at risk of sexual exploitation, but admitted further analysis highlighted that, “although the learning event identified what happened, it did not identify robustly enough why opportunities were missed and mistakes made”.
“I have decided to undertake a serious case review, which will follow existing regulations and also incorporate elements of the government’s proposed new approach to learning,” she said.
Jones said: “We will ensure that learning from all on-going reviews are co-ordinated and that recommendations from all reviews are implemented promptly so that we can build on the improvements already made, ensuring that children are supported and protected and that those who commit these crimes are brought to justice.”
Sheila Taylor MBE, director of the National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, commended Rochdale for their determination in tackling the problem and warned that sexual exploitation is a nationwide problem.
“Rochdale has actively sought to improve their understanding and approach on sexual exploitation and all agencies are working together and continuing to tackle it head on. This isn’t just an issue for the North of England. Sexual exploitation happens in all cities, most towns and many rural areas.
"We have to develop our thinking and look at ways to improve the care we give to those young people who have suffered this abuse.”
- Community Care Inform will soon be publishing a guide for social care professionals working with children at risk of sexual exploitation. Register here to receive the guide.
Serious case review decision imminent in Rochdale abuse case