Home Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence from Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council [LCG 24]

Home Affairs Select Committee Tuesday 8th January 2013—Rotherham Borough Council questions on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Can I thank you on behalf of Mrs Thacker and myself for allowing us to appear before the committee on this extremely important issue. I want to reassure you of the Council’s commitment to tackling child sexual exploitation. It is a high priority for us as a Council; we will vigorously challenge multi agency partners regarding their performance and expect the LSCB to hold the Council and all partner agencies to account.

The Select Committee has correctly challenged the historic performance of the Council and partners. Performance in the past was simply not strong enough and I am not seeking to avoid this or reduce the impact it had on young people. But I do wish to get across that significant improvements have been made and service delivery today is far stronger. The Select Committee will rightly want to know that lessons from individual local cases and national experience have been learned and are being applied, and that as a consequence young vulnerable people are being better protected and supported. I would like to illustrate for you some of the ways in which this is happening in Rotherham.

Equally, I could not fail to take the strong message from the Select Committee regarding prosecutions and the significant deterrent effect of convictions. I have asked the LSCB to invite all relevant agencies to an urgent meeting to set out a clear way forward in improving performance in this area, within the broader context also of prevention, protection and accelerating improvements already planned and underway.

You asked for a number of reports which I have attached. One is the Serious Case Review of Laura Wilson, referred to as Child S. I have shared an unredacted version of this report previously with The Secretary of State for Education, and also with the Deputy Children’s Commissioner to assist with her national research.

The Serious Case Review contained a number of recommendations and a significant number requiring action from the Council had already been dealt with prior to the author finalising the report. This was because the Council had a separate and distinct Improvement Plan regarding our safeguarding activity which we were implementing as a parallel action whilst the SCR was being undertaken. The SCR which was prepared in 2010 made significant recommendations with regard to the way we handled child sexual exploitation through our Risky Business project (referred to as Project 1).

Risky Business

The SCR acknowledged the skill and passion of staff working there but also noted that its original role and function had changed over time. The independent reviewer in summary recognised that the activity should form part of an integrated child safeguarding system, and not sit outside it. There was a clear recommendation that the role, purpose and function be reviewed and the Council has since done this. The service has not ceased, there is an integrated specialist unit managed by a qualified social worker sitting within the council’s Safeguarding Team that is delivering an enhanced range of services and some of the original workers remain. The difference is that it can now draw upon the full range of safeguarding social work capacity within the Council, and has stronger systems support and governance. These arrangements have allowed us to develop a co-located multi-agency service delivery model with the police which reflects current best practice thinking.

We have retained the elements of Risky Business recognised as key strengths. When the team was originally set up, one of its main objectives was to provide awareness raising in schools. To that end we have been delivering informal education programmes in all Rotherham Secondary schools since 1997 and this remains one of our priorities.

However, we have considerably strengthened this and target Year 8 pupils of both genders as local and national evidence indicates that this is the best time to make an intervention. We have recently developed a Year 10 programme where pupils who have been through the programme in Year 8, co deliver awareness training to the younger pupils. This is proving very successful and having good impact on the Year 8 pupils.

A Willingness to Share and Adopt new Learning 

The Select Committee has heard evidence from CEOP and the Deputy Children’s Commissioner and each said that responses to their calls for evidence had not been widely supported by agencies. Rotherham were one of the 13 local authorities who contributed to the CEOP report “out of sight, out of mind”, we also contributed to the University of Bedfordshire research that underpinned this report and also both calls for evidence to The Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation In Gangs and Groups. We have been and remain very active in attempting to share learning about child sexual exploitation and are members of the National Working Group on this subject.

We also commissioned the Lessons Learned Review of Operation Central, a copy of which I have also attached. We believed this to be so significant we hosted a Regional conference attended by 500 delegates to share information. We invited a young woman who is a survivor of sexual exploitation to address delegates and give direct experience of the circumstances in which these terrible crimes unfold, and the lifetime impact this has.

As part of our local councillor training programme we have increased the emphasis of all councillors as “Corporate Parent” and developed a programme of specific training on child sexual exploitation that we are now progressively rolling out.

Improvements since 2010 and planned Improvements

You asked us about licensing issues. We have considerably strengthened arrangements in Rotherham following concerns that some licensed private hire/hackney carriage drivers were associated with suspected Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). We have required enhanced level checks from the Disclosures and Barring Service (and its predecessor organisation) as a matter of course for many years. However, in recent years we have strengthened the links between the Safeguarding Children Board and the Licensing Authority and the officers that support both, to ensure that information regarding any potential risks of harm to children or adults is shared between departments in an effective and expedient manner.

To supplement this, we also hold regular Responsible Authority meetings which engage all the appropriate responsible bodies including senior representatives from the Licensing Team and the Manager of the Safeguarding Children Board. Information regarding child protection issues is shared at this meeting if it relates to any licensed premises or individuals (including taxi and private hire drivers).

In addition, Rotherham MBC Licensing have been leading on a county wide initiative to introduce a training package that covers adult and child safeguarding issues, (including CSE). It is anticipated that this training will be delivered to all new hackney carriage/private hire driver licence applicants as part of the application process. The issuing of a licence will be dependent on the successful completion of this training.

In the last two years, there have been four cases where we had concerns relating to a child safeguarding or sexual exploitation matter. All four drivers had urgent action taken against them to prevent them acting as taxi drivers. On receipt of information, three drivers were immediately suspended. The fourth prospective driver had a licence application refused by the Licensing Board on the basis of historical information relating to CSE. None of these individuals now operate as taxi drivers in Rotherham. Of these four, one driver subsequently had his licence revoked by the Licensing Board, a second remains suspended pending further investigation, the third voluntarily surrendered his licence and the fourth driver appealed the Licensing Board’s decision at the Magistrate’s Court, however the Court dismissed the appeal.

We have delivered multi agency training this year alone to 875 front line professionals. These include park rangers and gardeners, local housing officers, security guards at the local transport interchange and the Meadowhall shopping centre, health workers, and a range of other staff. The objective is to raise awareness in all partner agencies of the signs of sexual exploitation and the joint responsibility all officials and citizens have to tackling it. 

I have already mentioned the multi-agency co-located team working with the police. In April, we are further strengthening our multi agency work when Public Health functions transfer to the local authority from the former PCT. We are developing co-location with the school nursing function and believe linked with the school based training above that this will be a very powerful addition to our team.

In addition to the multi-agency working and training we have redesigned our contact and referral processes and improved our practice on initial and core assessments. These are the mechanisms for ensuring the specific needs of children are identified quickly and they receive the help and support needed. Our performance in these areas now significantly outstrips national comparators.

The Select Committee are only too aware of the significant resource challenges faced by the public sector and I know they have raised this issue with the Chief Constable of South Yorkshire. Since 2010–11 the Council has progressively increased its budget for safeguarding activity. This has seen an increase of £5.65 million between 2010–2011 and 2012–2013 and as a percentage of the councils overall spend has risen from about 9% to 12%. Whilst making this investment in safeguarding activity, the Council has reduced spend overall within the Council by 28% during the same period. This demonstrates the commitment the Council has to ensuring all children within the borough are safe, and receive the right protection and support. Discussions are underway to examine how further investments can be made in the financial year 2013–2014.

Our operational plan for 2013–14 is being considered at the next LSCB on 15th March by all partners for ratification. I will forward this to you as soon as the document has been agreed.

Sharing information with Members, Partner Agencies and Citizens 

The Council is committed to having an open dialogue with citizens about how deep child sexual exploitation cuts into society. Following the Select Committee we have published some information for citizens and partners and this has been widely distributed.

We produce a confidential CSE briefing that goes on a monthly basis to the Leader of the Council, Children young people and families Cabinet Member, Chief Executive, Independent Chair of the LSCB and now the Police and Crime Commissioner. A quarterly edited version goes out to Members and Cabinet is briefed on a quarterly basis.

Currently we have 6 ongoing Operations, two of which are cross border. Our current CSE caseload is 59 children. Of these 59, we have safeguarding concerns for 6 of them. The other 53 are “at risk” of sexual exploitation. Of the 59, 11 have been missing at some point; of the 59 cases 4 are LAC.

Since 2008 we have issued 84 Abduction notices relating to 205 children. This does not equal 205 abused children as these were served as part of disruption of CSE and missing from home.

Our confidential briefing puts the scale of CSE into a stronger context. CSE as a proportion of all Police child abuse referrals is 6%, for Children’s services child abuse contacts it is 1.4%.

We are in partnership with the local newspaper to run a series of features on CSE to raise awareness and strengthen opportunities for reporting and disclosure of incidents of child sexual exploitation.


At the Select Committee I did emphasise that the council was anxious to improve. The most recent inspection of our Safeguarding provision was undertaken in August of last year, which was broadly contemporaneous with the articles appearing within the times Newspaper. The report to the Council acknowledges we still need to complete our improvement journey, but that we have continued to make progress following the service being taken out of Government intervention in early 2011.

The report specifically stated the following about the child sexual exploitation service as it existed in August 2012, “However, good collaborative working between the police and the local authority has resulted in a targeted and successful approach to tackling child sexual exploitation, which is being further strengthened by a commitment to creating a team of qualified social workers based within the police protection unit”. I can confirm that this team is now in place.

Finally, you made reference to the 2002 Home Office report. The Council has made enquiries of the Home Office for this report and they are unable to locate a copy. It is a document the Council does not have, and which I have never seen. If you believe it could assist the council in accelerating its improvement journey and are able to let me have a copy I would be very grateful.

Martin Kimber
Chief Executive
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

18 January 2013

Enclosed documents1

Ofsted Report—Inspection of local authority arrangements for the protection of children

South Yorkshire Police CSE—A strategic problem profile

Serious Case Review Overview Report In respect of Child S

Lessons Learned Review—Operation Central

1 Not printed

Prepared 29th January 2014