Prime minister David Cameron has called for social services bosses to face the sack if they do not do their jobs properly, despite what their contracts may say.
His comments came during Prime Minister’s Questions, where he said: “Local authorities, when they employ these people should look carefully at their contracts and make sure that if people do not do the job properly they can be removed.”
“Local government has responsibility for the people it employs and should hold them to account,” he added, saying the fact that Rotherham police and other agencies ignored child victims, “offends all our senses of human decency”.
The prime minster was responding to a question from Diane Abbott following the Rotherham abuse scandal, which revealed senior managers in social care had been suppressing the issue of child sexual exploitation.
Abbott raised concerns over why abuse can happen to children, yet directors of social services and other senior officers pay no penalty and “often move on to higher paid jobs”.
“Surely, if the contracts of the people at the top mean they cannot be sacked in such circumstances, the contracts need looking at,” Abbott said. The prime minister said he “entirely agreed”. Similar calls were made by the NSPCC, with the charity saying criminal action should be pursued against those who fail in their duty to protect children.
The prime minister also announced that the home secretary Theresa May will chair a group of ministers to look at how lessons can be learned before the child abuse inquiry gets fully under way. This was in response to a question from Rotherham MP Sarah Champion who condemned the “horrific, vile and disgusting abuse” that children suffered in the area.
She asked Cameron: “Child sexual exploitation is not only a Rotherham issue, but a national issue, so when will the prime minister appoint the chair to his inquiry into child abuse so that no child will be let down by statutory agencies again?”
He said: “These are all vital issues. We have to ask ourselves a series of questions about how these individual services failed. Yes, of course there is the issue about whether these problems were ignored because of concerns about racism and political correctness.
“But there is also a big concern that sometimes the police and other agencies ignore these people because they felt they were beyond the pale, which offends all our senses of human decency.”
He said an announcement would be made imminently on who will lead the child abuse inquiry, originally led by Lady Butler-Sloss before she stepped down.