This report follows up our November 2014 report on child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and covers two matters: the role of Ofsted and Louise Casey's inspection report on Rotherham. We also took evidence from Roger Stone, the Leader of Rotherham Council from 2003 to 2014.
It is clear that the inspection arrangements that Ofsted had in place from 2007, when it became responsible for inspecting children's services at Rotherham, failed to detect either the evidence, or the knowledge within the council, of large-scale child sexual exploitation. The structured inspection method used at that time to inspect local authorities' children's services was designed by Ofsted and did not focus on child sexual exploitation. Nor was there time, incentive or encouragement to go beyond the confines of the framework. The result was a lack of intelligence and understanding in Ofsted's handling of Rotherham. Child sexual exploitation was missed as was the superficiality of Rotherham's response to inspection findings and its dysfunction. Ofsted itself was distracted by its 2007 reorganisation which in the short-term served to reinforce its internal silos.
At the end of this exercise, which was not a full inquiry but an evidence gathering exercise involving a range of witnesses, we are left with two still partially unanswered questions. First, given the inability of Ofsted to recognise organised child sexual exploitation until 2012-13, is it possible there are more Rotherhams waiting to be found? It is essential that the current round of inspections covers the whole country and gets the answer to this question. Second, is Ofsted currently attuned to look for only already known types of failure? We are concerned that it will not be the body that picks out and recognises the next, as yet unidentified category of failure in children's services.
We found Louise Casey's report on her inspection of Rotherham to be penetrating and instructive. It not only confirmed the dreadful findings in the Jay Report but, what was worse, revealed that Rotherham Council was in denial about child sexual exploitation. In the face of the findings of the Jay and Casey Reports the Secretary of State was right to send in commissioners to run Rotherham. The challenge now is to get improvements made in Rotherham, reach the victims and get the authority functioning effectively under local democratic control.