Following claims that victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham continue to be let down and that the problem’s worse than ever, local MP Sarah Champion is leading calls for a national task force to be established to address CSE. Ms. Champion told Sky News she has been "overwhelmed" with new cases coming to her for help and advice.
BASW professional officer Karen Goodman has debated the issues on Sky News alongside Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk. Mr Danczuk told Sky News: “Services continue to be in turmoil; they’ve quite clearly failed to protect and look after young people, there’s no doubt about that both in Rotherham and in Rochdale as well.
“There’s been a failure on the part of police to prosecute cases against perpetrators of these awful crimes but there’s also been a failure from social services to protect these children and look after them.
“What we do need to see and I think Sarah Champion is exactly right – an injection of resources, some cash to be put in there but also for services to up their game and start providing a decent service.”
Karen Goodman responded by saying: “I think we’re seeing a struggle to provide services. We do know that systems are there in place, social workers together with police undertake investigations. The children are protected but then we have to make sure there are on-going services provided, that the resources are there, that we’re working in partnership between the agencies and that the ongoing support, the therapeutic work that needs to take place with these children, who are victims, are all there in place. We are working in times of extremely difficult resource allocation.”
Mr Danczuk praised Sarah Champion’s efforts to highlight the issue: “There are other MPs speaking out about this and Sarah Champion is a good example of an MP who’s really taken the government to task over protecting and defending these children. I don’t think you should throw money at this; I do think it’s about getting services right. Additional money would be helpful but it has to be spent properly.
“As Karen said, a lot of victims of this type of abuse really need a lot of support and what we saw in Rochdale is if there weren’t people advocating on behalf of these victims, then they wouldn’t get the support that they required. So it shouldn’t just be down to MPs to ensure that this support is provided to the victims, it really needs to be local services delivering better than they currently are.”
Karen Goodman drew attention to the long term needs of victims of child sexual exploitation, saying: “We need to have services available that meet the needs of these children and young people so that out of hours, the drop in centres, the models of good practice are there, we have to make sure they are developed.
“We also have to ensure that the child and adolescent mental health services, the therapeutic needs are there that we know can work for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation. These aren’t quick fixes, you have to make sure the long term supports are in place so that these children aren’t lured back, that they are helped to lead better lives.
“We know that the models are there, we have to make sure that social services and the police working together with the health services are there on a long term basis and we don’t take our eye off the ball. Just because there has been some progress, we have to make sure that we are vigilant at all times and continue to make sure we are protecting children at the beginning of the process and on an on-going basis.
Simon Danczuk ended the debate by focussing on the need for better police work to address the issue. He said: “We need to see prosecutions of the perpetrators, in Rotherham we’ve seen half a dozen perpetrators arrested and prosecuted, if we’re talking upwards of 2000 victims then there is absolutely no doubt there are many more perpetrators out there and there’s been a real failure by South Yorkshire Police to carry out effective investigations and prosecutions of the perpetrators but we’ve seen the same problem in Greater Manchester as well, there’s been a failure by Greater Manchester to prosecute many of the perpetrators of these horrific crimes and we do need to see better policing.
“It’s about the culture that’s set at the top of these police forces which has said ‘ignore this crime’ for far too long. I think there has been a change, not least because of the public pressure that’s been put on but we still need to see the police getting out there arresting the people who are committing these awful crimes because what we do know is these type of perpetrators carry on committing these crimes until they are arrested, it’s as simple as that.”
Watch the Sky News investigation here