Child sexual exploitation in Rotherham: Ofsted and further government issues - Communities and Local Government Committee Contents

1  Introduction

Purpose of the report

1. On 18 November 2014 we published a report, Child sexual exploitation in Rotherham: some issues for local government.[1] Our report followed the publication of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham: 1997-2013 by Professor Alexis Jay OBE (the "Jay Report")[2] on 26 August 2014, which provided a damning indictment of the failure of one local authority to protect its children from organised sexual exploitation. We, like other MPs, were shocked not only by what the Jay Report showed had been happening in Rotherham since 1997 but by the implication that the pattern revealed could be repeated across the country. We have therefore closely followed developments in Rotherham and we are now able to follow up two matters since our earlier report.


2. First, we considered that the Jay Report posed serious questions about the performance of Ofsted and its inspection of Rotherham Council's children's services. We therefore said in our earlier report that we would be questioning Ofsted about its record at Rotherham.[3] We took evidence from Debbie Jones, Director, Social Care and Regional Director, London, Ofsted, who has been in post since 2013, and, exceptionally, from former officers in post from 2007, when Ofsted took over responsibilities for inspection of children's services:

i)  Michael Hart, Director for Children, June 2007 to December 2008;[4]

ii)  John Goldup, Director of Social Care Development, September 2009, then National Director for Development and Strategy and finally, January 2012 to April 2013, Deputy Chief Inspector;[5] and

iii)  Miriam Rosen, Director, Education, April 2004 to August 2009, Executive Director, September 2009 to April 2010 and then Her Majesty's Chief Inspector (interim), July 2011 to January 2012.[6]

Having taken their evidence we have a number of concerns about Ofsted's performance, which we set out at chapter 2.


3. Second, on 10 September 2014, after the publication of the Jay Report, Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, announced that he would use his powers to commission an independent inspection of the compliance of Rotherham Council in the exercise of its functions on governance, children and young people, and taxi and private hire licensing. He appointed Louise Casey CB to carry out the inspection and asked her to report.[7] We said that we intended to call Ms Casey to give evidence after she and her team had completed the inspection at Rotherham. Her Report of Inspection of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (the "Casey Report"),[8] was published on 4 February 2015 and we took evidence from her on 23 February. We comment on the Casey Report and Ms Casey's evidence in chapter 3.


4. On 10 March we took evidence from Roger Stone, the Leader of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council from 2003 to 2014. Our purpose in asking him to appear was to put to him the serious criticism of his leadership and management of children's services set out in the Jay and Casey Reports. We have published a transcript of the session,[9] which speaks for itself. Our views on the failure of the authority are set out in this and our earlier report. Having carefully listened to, and read, Mr Stone's evidence we are clear that in the light of the findings of Professor Jay and Louise Casey, which we fully accept, the authority which he led failed to protect the children of Rotherham from organised sexual exploitation. In these circumstances as Leader—and given that he was aware of the child sexual exploitation from 2004/05 and given the culture in the Council which prevented the follow through and tackling of child sexual exploitation on the scale it was occurring in Rotherham—Mr Stone's position was wholly untenable. Therefore he had no alternative other than to resign and to apologise.

The evidence

5. In contrast to most of our inquiries the evidence we took in this case was predominantly oral evidence. We did, however, receive written supplementary submissions from Ofsted, the Local Government Association and the memorandum from Roger Stone, which we have published.[10] This inquiry was also unusual, as we have noted, in that we took the exceptional step of calling three former Ofsted officials to give oral evidence. They gave evidence in personal capacities as former employees of Ofsted.[11] We did this because the current senior official at Ofsted with responsibilities for children's services had only been in post since 2013 and the Jay Report highlighted deficiencies in the service from 1997.

6. We would like to thank all those who gave evidence and our specialist adviser, Gladys Rhodes White.[12]

Measures announced on 3 March 2015

7. On 3 March in response to the Jay and other reports, including one published that day concerning child sexual exploitation in Oxfordshire,[13] the Government announced a package of measures to protect children. Child sex abuse has been prioritised as a "national threat", like serious and organised crime, meaning that police forces, chief constables and police and crime commissioners will have a duty to collaborate with each other across boundaries to safeguard children. The Government also announced proposals to extend the crime of "wilful neglect" to cover children's social care and education, with unlimited fines for individuals and organisations shown to have let children down. In addition, senior staff who leave councils after abuse scandals could see their pay-offs clawed back if it is shown they failed to protect children under their responsibility. A new national helpline will be established to help professionals blow the whistle on failings in care for children.[14]

1   Communities and Local Government Committee, Third Report of Session 2014-15, Child sexual exploitation in Rotherham: some issues for local government, HC 648 Back

2   Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham 1997 - 2013, (the "Jay Report") Back

3   Communities and Local Government Committee, Third Report of Session 2014-15 Child sexual exploitation in Rotherham: some issues for local government, HC 648, para 34 Back

4   Q352 Back

5   Q353 Back

6   Q488 Back

7   HC Deb, 10 September 2014, cols 37-40WS Back

8   Department for Communities and Local Government, Report of Inspection of Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, February 2015, HC (2014-15) 1050 (the "Casey Report") Back

9   Qq526 and following Back

10   Roger Stone (JRR 005) Back

11   Qq353 [John Goldup], 488, 490 [Miriam Rosen] Back

12   Ms Rhodes White had no interests to declare. Back

13   Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board, Serious Case Review into Child Sexual Exploitation in Oxfordshire: from the experiences of Children A, B, C, D, E, and F, February 2015 Back

14   HC Deb, 3 March 2015, cols 812-14; Gov.UK, "PM unveils tough new measures to tackle child sexual exploitation", 5 March 2015 Back

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Prepared 17 March 2015