Policies designed to safeguard children from sexual exploitation in Rotherham were “divorced from reality”, while Ofsted may have failed children in the area, MPs have said.
In its report, ‘Child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham: Some issues for local government’, the Communities and Local Government Committee said issues like policies divorced from reality, single party supremacy and “the presence of a dominating personality with a [strong] influence” had caused problems in Rotherham and were likely to be found in other local authorities.
The report – which follows a number of high profile CSE cases in Rotherham – highlighted the need for more effective scrutiny by councils.
Clive Betts MP, chair of the committee, said: “It’s important to note that it was the press which stimulated action in Rotherham, not the council’s own system of challenge or scrutiny, nor external inspections.”
“It’s vital local authorities across the country now ensure their scrutiny, governance, and leadership is fit and ready to identify and combat CSE in their communities.”
When giving evidence to the committee, Professor Alexis Jay – who conducted an inquiry into CSE in Rotherham – explained how the council had “mountains” of policies and plans, but nobody to check if they were implemented or any good.
“Serious questions” to be asked of Ofsted
The report also raised concerns about Ofsted, which rated Rotherham’s children’s services ‘adequate’ only two years prior to the Jay report and failed to acknowledge CSE in a report until 2006.
Jay said Ofsted inspectors had, to some extent, failed children in the town.
“They [Ofsted] did not seem to demand any direct and sustained improvement take place. They simply reported and then it went onto the next and the next, so there was no clear message that ‘We are going to tolerate that this has not improved,'” Jay told MPs.
Betts said “serious questions” need to be asked of the watchdog, which will also be called in by the committee to give evidence.
An Ofsted spokesperson said: “In common with a number of organisations, we accept that past inspections may not have given CSE the forensic focus it needed and deserved. That’s why last year we introduced a new and much more rigorous inspection framework for inspecting children’s services, which places a stronger emphasis on the issue.”
The spokesperson added: “In recent years Ofsted gave Rotherham a range of judgements, finding it ‘inadequate’ in 2009 on a number of safeguarding and child protection issues.”