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Betts: Rotherham 'not an outlier' on sexual abuse

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Child sexual abuse in Rotherham MBC is a “frightening pointer” to the scale of the problem in other councils, one of Parliament’s biggest local government experts has warned.

The chair of the communities and local government select committee said evidence put to it by Rotherham’s chief executive Martin Kimber and strategic director of children and young people’s services Joyce Thacker had given a “chilling message” and raised questions about the resources other councils might need to tackle the problem.

These sessions followed publication last month of the Jay report into child sexual exploitation in the town.

In a letter to communities secretary Eric Pickles, following the communities secretary’s establishment last week of an inspection of Rotherham by Troubled Families programme head Louise Casey, Mr Betts wrote: “The chilling message that came home to the committee from [the evidence] session was the scale of the problem.

“Rotherham would appear not to be an outlier but representative of an endemic problem and a frightening pointer to the scale of the problem.”

When the government responds to Ms Casey’s eventual report it must “be clear about the extent of the problem and it is going to have to address what resources will be provided to investigate, tackle and put right the damage caused by child sexual exploitation,” he wrote.

Mr Betts also urged Mr Pickles to “respond positively” to any request from Rotherham for additional resources to go back through records to identify victims not yet known to it.

He said the government should ensure that national standards and benchmarks are in place, enforced by Ofsted, to deal with child sexual exploitation.

“Rotherham, and perhaps many other authorities, were left to themselves with undesirable consequences”, Mr Betts wrote.

“In addition, some Ofsted reports on Rotherham children’s services at best provided mixed and confusing signals which compounded the obliviousness to child sexual exploitation.”

Ms Casey’s investigations should include establishing which present or former staff appeared culpable, he said.

“To make her examination of these staffs both thorough and fair we consider there has to be a process established which includes an independent element,” Mr Betts said.

He called on the LGA to provide this mechanism to help hold those concerned to account.

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