In Brief

Rotherham: charity given £3m to help victims of sexual abuse

Children's charity Barnardo's receives funding from the Government in the wake of the child abuse scandal

Barnardo's has been given an additional £3.1m to help support victims of child sexual abuse in Rotherham in the wake of the scandal that erupted last year.

The funding, provided by the Government, Rotherham Council and the KPMG Foundation, will help the children's charity launch a three-year programme aimed at helping past victims as well as preventing further incidences of abuse.

A team of 15 specialists will be hired to work closely with the council, schools and local communities to train people to spot the early signs of sexual exploitation.

It comes after an independent report revealed that 1,400 children were sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013 by gangs of men in the South Yorkshire town.

Children as young as 11 suffered abuse including rape by multiple attackers, trafficking, abduction and beatings. The police and social services were widely blamed for failing to protect the young victims.

"A project like this will be a real avenue for people to get that support and we have got to work really hard to make sure we don't let the children of Rotherham down," Barnardo's chief executive Javed Khan told the BBC.

"There are still children at risk in Rotherham, but there are in every part of the country," he said. "We think we are only touching the tip of the iceberg at the moment." 

Last month, South Yorkshire Police faced additional criticism after inspectors concluded that officers were still failing young victims. Rotherham Council is currently being run by state-appointed commissioners after investigators declared it "not fit for purpose".

Sarah Champion, MP for Rotherham, who has campaigned for further funding, welcomed the news and praised planned campaigns to teach young children about healthy relationships. "Children who learn to respect boundaries will grow up to be adults who do the same," she told the Yorkshire Post.

One victim, who was raped by a 34-year old man when she was a teenager, has urged others to come forward and receive support. "If Barnardo's can help me pick up the pieces, it can help other girls too. I'd say to other girls in similar situations, don't doubt yourself. Know that it's the men that did wrong, not you. And don't think you can't move on, because you can."

Rotherham abuse: South Yorkshire police still failing victims 

21 July

The police force at the centre of the Rotherham child sexual abuse scandal still needs to make "major improvements" to its protection procedures, according to inspectors.

A post-inspection review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) warned that while there were "tangibles signs" of progress, "significant concerns" remained about the ongoing failures of South Yorkshire Police.

The review comes ten months after a previous report that raised serious concerns over the force's approach to child protection in the wake of the abuse scandal.

At least 1,400 children were sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013 by gangs of men in Rotherham. The list of abuses includes rape by multiple attackers, trafficking, abduction and beatings. The police force and social services were widely blamed for failing the young victims.

"It is common knowledge that South Yorkshire Police's approach to protecting children has been severely lacking," Mike Cunningham from HMIC told the BBC.

"We carried out this review in order to understand what progress South Yorkshire Police had made since our initial inspection and we found there were still areas that need major improvements."

The findings revealed that police were still failing to safeguard children from exploitation, the Yorkshire Post reports. Inspectors cited the example of a 15-year old girl who was demonstrating signs of vulnerability due to sexual exploitation and drug taking but was characterised as a "naughty child" on police records.

The force was found to have made no improvements to practice in relation to children in care homes, failing to recognise risks to some children. Recording practices also remained poor, “limiting the ability of staff to make good decisions about children".

Cunningham said he was keen to stress that the situation in South Yorkshire is "not irretrievable" and that improvements had been made to the force's initial response when attending incidents involving children who are at risk. 

Responding to the report, Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee said safeguarding victims of abuse was "paramount" for South Yorkshire police but acknowledged that more needed to be done.

Karen Froggatt, director for child victims of sexual exploitation at the charity Victim Support, told The Guardian it was "extremely concerning" that officers were failing to recognise abuse.

"There's an urgent need for a shift in attitude from all agencies to recognise that young people are vulnerable and that often drugs, alcohol and threats play a part in the lead-up to abusive behaviour."

Rotherham sex abuse: Shaun Wright finally steps down

16 September 2014

Shaun Wright, the former head of children's services in Rotherham, has stepped down from his current role as a police and crime commissioner over the town's child abuse scandal.

Wright had faced repeated calls to resign as South Yorkshire's police commissioner after a report published last month found at least 1,400 children had been abused in Rotherham. The incidents took place between 1997 and 2013 and Wright was head of children's services from 2005 to 2010, reports the Daily Telegraph.

He resigned from the Labour party last month, but refused to step down as police commissioner, despite calls to do so from the prime minister, home secretary and Labour party.

In a statement today, Wright conceded that the focus on his suitability for the role of police commissioner was "detracting from the important issue", which was the victims in the report and bringing justice to the criminals responsible.

"With this in mind, I feel that it is now right to step down from the position of police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire for the sake of those victims, for the sake of the public of South Yorkshire and to ensure that the important issues outlined in the report about tackling child sexual exploitation can be discussed and considered in full and without distraction," he said.

The report, by Professor Alexis Jay, cited "collective failures" by the police and local council. It found that in a third of cases the victims were already known to child protection services and it alleged that some councillors simply "hoped the problem would go away".

Wright's resignation is likely to trigger a by-election for his replacement. The last by-election of this nature, which was in the West Midlands after the death of Labour's police commissioner Bob Jones in July, had a turnout of just 10.3 per cent.

Shaun Wright refuses to step down as police commissioner

28 August 

Shaun Wright remains in place as police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire this morning despite cross-party calls for his resignation in the wake of a damning report into the abuse of more than 1,400 children in Rotherham.

Wright has offered his formal resignation from the Labour party with "deep regret", but has refused to step down as police commissioner.

"As a father, and a citizen of South Yorkshire, my thoughts are with the victims and their families," Wright said in a statement. But he said he was committed to, and intends to retain, his role in South Yorkshire police.

Home Secretary Theresa May has joined growing calls for Wright to resign, saying that "he has real questions to answer". Labour MPs including Yvette Cooper and Ed Balls have also said he should go.

Wright was responsible for children's services at Rotherham council between 2005 and 2010, the period during which much of the abuse – and the failings identified by the inquiry – took place.

He said he accepted "full responsibility for my part in the collective failures which took place at Rotherham council" and for that reason he resigned from his council position in 2010.

He said he had been responsible for a "major transformation" in the way police dealt with child sexual exploitation. Looking forward, he said he intends to lead the force on an "urgent, and fundamental, journey of improvement for the sake of past, present and potential victims, who are the most important people in all of this".

Shadow policing minister Jack Dromey had earlier threatened Wright with suspension from the Labour party unless he offered his resignation, the BBC reports.

"Shaun Wright must resign from his position because the people of South Yorkshire have lost confidence in him," Dromey told The Guardian. Victims will simply not understand if he clings on to office".

Labour backbencher John Mann MP is expected to ask the Home Secretary to launch an investigation into whether charges of misconduct in public office can be brought against Wright.

Rotherham sex abuse: police and council blamed

27 August

Blatant failures by police and social services contributed to the sexual abuse of well over a thousand children in Rotherham over a 16-year period, a damning report has revealed.

The inquiry, led by former chief inspector of social work Professor Alexis Jay, placed the blame on Rotherham council and South Yorkshire Police for "appalling" abuses that continue today.

What has the report revealed?

At least 1,400 children were sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013 by gangs of men in Rotherham. "It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered," writes Alexis Jay.

The list of abuses includes rape by multiple attackers, trafficking across the North East, abductions, beatings and intimidation, with some of the victims as young as eleven. In one example, a young girl was doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight.

A large majority of the perpetrators were of Asian descent, according to victim statements.

Why does this sound familiar?

In 2010, the issue of child sex abuse in Rotherham first came to light when five Asian men were convicted of sexual offences against underage girls. In 2012, the Times newspaper published a confidential police report that warned that thousands of similar crimes were being committed across South Yorkshire, the BBC reports.

Why wasn't anything done?

The report cites "collective failures" at the police and local council, which it describes as "blatant". The victims were already known to child protection services  in over a third of the cases, and the report alleges that some councillors simply "hoped the problem would go away".

Among social services the scale of the problem was "underplayed" by senior managers. Numerous reports on the issue were ignored as senior police officers and care workers believed the claims were "exaggerated".

It also said that child services were, and continue to be, understaffed and overstretched.

It also placed blame on the council's failure to engage with the Pakistani community in Rotherham to address the issue. Council staff described their "nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist". They also feared that it would "give oxygen" to racist ideas and threaten community relations.

What next?

Rotherham's Labour council leader Roger Stone has resigned with immediate effect, telling The Guardian he believed he should "take responsibility on behalf of the council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report".

However, Rotherham council's chief executive Martin Kimber told the BBC that no one else within the council would face disciplinary action, due to a lack of evidence.

Former children's minister Tim Loughton told the BBC's Newsnight that it was a "common theme" in child sex abuse cases that "nobody pays the consequences".

While many have welcomed Stone's resignation there are calls for other top officials to be held accountable. Lib Dem and Ukip councillors are calling for Shaun Wright, the police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, to step down. He "knew about the level of child sexual exploitation, but chose not do anything about it", said Lib Dem councillor Colin Ross.

The report acknowledges that "many improvements" have been made within the police and child protection services, but that there is still work to be done. "The abuse is not just confined to the past but continues today", Jay warns.

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