Prime minister David Cameron has been accused of ‘missing the point’ by not announcing a standalone inquiry into the Rotherham child abuse scandal.
Home secretary Theresa May will be chairing a group of ministers to make sure that lessons are learned from Rotherham before the beginning of the historical abuse inquiry. The move has concerned the charity 4Children, which has warned that without a separate inquiry the issue will be lost, especially when compared to the scope of such a large inquiry spanning decades.
A 4Children spokesperson said she was concerned Cameron indicated, in his announcement during Prime Minister Questions, that any Rotherham inquiry would be incorporated into the historical child abuse inquiry.
This will give “the false impression that this issue is in the past and does not reflect the horrific reality that children continue to be subjected to abuse today,” the charity claimed.
In a letter to the prime minister, the children’s charity called for a high level, standalone inquiry into the extent of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham and other areas.
Anne Longfield, 4Children chief executive, said: “The devastating findings of child abuse in Rotherham shows how countless young lives have, and still are, being ruined by CSE. 4Children believes that the 1,400 victims of abuse in Rotherham deserve answers.”
“The full scale of this systemic failure may never be known, but government must act now to carry out an urgent and transparent investigation to listen to and protect children and make sure this never happens again in Rotherham or anywhere else in the UK.”
The charity believes a standalone inquiry should focus on four areas, including what went wrong and why victims’ experiences of being sexually exploited were ignored. On a wider scale, it believes an inquiry should focus on the extent of CSE in the UK today and how institutions and committees should change to ensure children are always listened to and warnings are never ignored.
“We are calling on the prime minister to establish a standalone inquiry to reveal the true extent of CSE in Rotherham and other areas and answer questions about how and why services continue to fail our children. Adding it to the remit of an historical abuse inquiry misses the point,” Longfield said.
The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives (SOLACE) has given its support to these calls. SOLACE president Mark Rogers said: “National and local leaders – political, professional, religious and community – need to lead an examination of our collective conscience and agree how we tackle those values and cultures that ignore, misunderstand or condone abuse.”