An impartial review conducted by the Barnardo’s children’s charity has praised Rotherham Council and other local agencies for its commitment to addressing child sexual exploitation in the area.
Barnardo’s looked closely at current practice and was commissioned by Rotherham Council after leaked reports alleged that police and council chiefs were aware of gangs grooming children in the town for a considerable period of time but primarily failed to act because of sensitivities around the ethnic background of suspected perpetrators.
In November 2010 five men from the Rotherham area were convicted for sexual offences relating to under-age girls. Rotherham Borough Council previously issued an apology to the victims who had been let down by the failures of the system.
Part of the review noted that there is a greater emphasis on agencies working well together. This does seem to represent the critical point for tackling these difficult areas in the future and the efforts to move toward a more cohesive and collaborative approach to the safeguarding of children is something to be praised. It is fair to say that with a litany of terrible failings that have come to light in recent years from the Rotherham area that quick and significant progress was required.
The Barnardo’s review was independent and helps show that there is real progress and while that is certainly positive it remains clear that more work is needed. There is encouragement for an expansion in the network of professionals working with those young people who are deemed to be a low or medium risk.
The Barnardo’s review examined the links between the council’s youth services and South Yorkshire’s Protecting Young People Police Officers (PYPPOs), and praised the work that had been done to identify and reduce the number of vulnerable people in the community, in schools and identified what are described as ‘hot spot’ areas”. It was recommended that this approach should be extended to create links with religious groups, migrant communities and local business.
Going further the charity suggested efforts to add hotels, bed and breakfast accommodation; housing and landlords; taxis and public transport; takeaways, shopping centres, pubs and clubs to that process.
It is of course, a terrible fact that this resurgent effort has come about as a result of a series of failings, it has to be hoped that real progress is being made to present similar failures in the future.
The central criticism that can be levelled at most of the local authorities to be caught up in similar scandals is the lack of unified thinking and collaboration between agencies. It seems that improvements in that area are being made and although it is fair to point out that there are limits to what can be done the Barnardo’s report does help show that there is a will to change.
Even so the recommendations noted above are a reminder of the role that a wider community plays in dealing with these difficult issues.