Report of Inspection of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Terrible things happened in Rotherham and on a significant scale. Children were sexually exploited by men who came largely from the Pakistani Heritage Community. Not enough was done to acknowledge this, to stop it happening, to protect children, to support victims and to apprehend perpetrators.
Upon arriving in Rotherham, these I thought were the uncontested facts. My job was to conduct an inspection and decide whether the Council was now fit for purpose. However this was not the situation I encountered when I reached Rotherham. Instead, I found a Council in denial. They denied that there had been a problem, or if there had been, that it was as big as was said. If there was a problem they certainly were not told – it was someone else’s job. They were no worse than anyone else. They had won awards. The media were out to get them.
So this is why in making a judgement as to whether Rotherham Council is fit for purpose today I have set it in the context of how it has behaved in the past and its reluctance to deal with past failings.
I recognise that child sexual exploitation is hard to tackle. It is complex, sometimes thankless and very hard to get it right. But it is vital that public services face up to difficult tasks. However, Rotherham Council is a place where difficult problems are not always tackled as they should be. When faced with the solid findings contained in the report it had itself commissioned by Professor Jay, it did not accept them. And without accepting what happened and its role in it, it will be unable to move on and change.
We must not lose sight of what the failures in Rotherham have meant in practice; victims have been hurt and remain without justice, the Pakistani Heritage Community has been harmed by association , as have individual social workers, police officers, taxi drivers and other hard working people in the Council, voluntary sectors and the town of Rotherham more broadly. It has also harmed public services because what happened in Rotherham does not represent its values - of putting the needs of the most vulnerable always at its centre.
I want to be clear that the responsibility for the abuse that took place in Rotherham lies firmly with the vile perpetrators, many of whom have not yet faced justice for what they have done. I hope that this will shortly be rectified. But in its actions, the conclusion that I have reluctantly reached is that both today and in the past, Rotherham has at times taken more care of its reputation than it has its of its most needy.
Child abuse and exploitation happens all over the country, but Rotherham is different in that it was repeatedly told by its own youth service what was happening and it chose, not only to not act, but to close that service down. This is important because it points to how it has dealt with uncomfortable truths put before it. However, I propose that this report is one uncomfortable truth that will not be ignored, but that Rotherham Council will use it to embrace the change so sorely needed and ensure that from here it get its priorities right.