MPs demand nationwide review of child protection policies
MPs have called for child protection services to be reviewed following recent evidence that organised child abuse is prevalent across the UK.
The development comes in the aftermath of the Rotherham scandal reports. The Communities and Local Government Committee has criticised watchdog Ofsted for failing to uncover the South Yorkshire council’s ineptitude in preventing the abuse of local children.
The watchdog now faces serious investigations into its oversight. South Yorkshire council officers will also be investigated for the “systemic” failings in the town, even if they no longer work in that area.
Between 1997 and 2013, around 1,400 children were sexually abused in the South Yorkshire town. MPs have alleged that the abuse was subject to a cover-up by public officials.
But the Rotherham investigations will not be a lone case – all councils have been urged to review their child protection policies.
Committee chairman Clive Betts said: “As a committee, we heard alarming evidence that the organised child sexual exploitation at Rotherham is prevalent across England. Rotherham is not an outlier.”
Despite Ofsted having carried out inspections of the council over a 16-year period, MPs believe the watchdog failed to protect Rotherham children. Ofsted will now face questioning by the committee.
Betts commented: “Serious questions also need to be asked of Ofsted. Repeated Ofsted inspections in Rotherham failed to lift the lid on the council’s shameful inability to tackle child sexual exploitation. As a committee, we will want to question Ofsted about their inspection regime and ask why their inspections were so ineffective in Rotherham.”
The watchdog has refuted the allegation and claims that five years ago it did describe the town’s council as “inadequate” at protecting children. It has now welcomed the opportunity to give evidence to the committee.
An Ofsted spokesman said: “Last year we introduced a new and much more rigorous inspection framework for inspecting children’s services, which places a stronger emphasis on the issue.”
An investigation into why key documents went missing between 1999 to 2003 has also been implemented by the MPs.
Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board David Simmonds praised the committee’s report and said: “Perpetrators of sexual exploitation should never be allowed to think that they are untouchable. There are lessons in this report for every community and we must all work together to stamp out this awful crime.”