Council criticised for twice delaying child grooming inquiry

Rochdale council will publish the findings of its inquiry into child sexual exploitation in March, amid concerns it is stalling progress

Bosses at Rochdale council have been criticised and accused of “dithering” after it emerged the authority has twice delayed the publication of its inquiry into child grooming.

The inquiry – launched in June after a review revealed social workers repeatedly ignored victims of child sexual exploitation – was due to be published in November, but was delayed until January. It has now been pushed back again and will not report its findings until March.

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk hit out at the council, warning people are losing confidence in the authority’s ability to deal with the inquiry. “This is getting embarrassing for the council and the council leader needs to get a grip,” Danczuk said.

“It’s now four months since a damning report revealed that child protection services ignored young girls’ cries for help and for all the council’s tough talk of taking disciplinary action they still haven’t acted.”

It follows an unannounced Ofsted inspection in December, which rated child protection at the troubled council ‘inadequate’ after finding gaps in service provision.

Inspectors said council leaders “lacked urgency in driving the strategic momentum of responding to child sexual exploitation”, although recognised new senior appointments at the council could drive improvement.

“You would hope lessons had been learned by now,” Danczuk said. “They need to stop dithering and make this a priority.”

Rochdale council became embroiled in a child protection scandal last year, following the arrest and conviction of a gang who sexually abused young people in the area.

A review of multi-agency responses to child sexual exploitation in the area was published in September. It found council social workers had repeatedly ignored victims of child sexual exploitation because they perceived teenage girls to be “making their own choices”.

The review acknowledged that professionals around the country were only just starting to become more aware of the issues around sexual exploitation between 2007 and 2011. They recognised that the impact of the Baby P case and budget cuts had hampered this.

The review was a forerunner to a serious case review, also due to be published this year. Community Care has contacted Rochdale council and is waiting for a response.

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