A bunker mentality at Ofsted led to care inspectors failing to expose abuse in Rotherham in 2007, a damning report has found.
“Ofsted inspections failed to get under the skin of what was happening at Rotherham Council”, a Commons committee investigation has found, with officials too focused on paperwork rather than the fate of vulnerable children.
The result was repeated false assurances that child exploitation in the town was being dealt with, leaving potentially hundreds more girls to be abused.
MPs have now called for fresh Ofsted inspections at councils across England to ensure mistakes are not repeated elsewhere.
In their report the Communities Select Committee today says: “Ofsted inspectors did not probe council officers enough about their efforts to combat child sexual exploitation and failed to pick up on the professional jealousy and incompetence that distorted the operation of Children’s Social Care in Rotherham.”
The focus on Rotherham follows new abuse claims in London, where the IPCC police watchdog is now investigating 14 claims that officers from the Metropolitan force covered up claims of abuse by senior officers and politicians from the 1970s to the 2000s.
The claims – which were referred to the IPCC by the Met Police – include that the force suppressed evidence, hindered or halted investigations and covered up offences because MPs and police officers were involved.
The Communities committee’s work came after reports by Professor Alexis Jay and Louise Casey showed how council staff failed to help at least 1,400 abuse victims, with many staff thought to have believed working class white girls had chosen to be with Asian men who raped and abused them.
Last night Sheffield MP Clive Betts, who chairs the select committee, said: “The perpetrators bear ultimate responsibility for the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham but the ineffectiveness of Ofsted’s inspections contributed to a failure to expose the extent of the problem and to detect Rotherham Council’s on-going and tragic inability to combat it on the ground.
“The shortcomings in Ofsted’s inspection arrangements until 2013 leave serious concerns that organised child sexual exploitation in other local authorities may have been missed.
“Ofsted’s credibility is now on the line. Ofsted now needs to re-inspect all local authorities in England at the earliest opportunity to ensure councils have identified and are tackling child sexual exploitation in their communities.”
An Ofsted spokeswoman said: “We welcome the report and the committee’s recognition that the changes we have made since 2012 strengthen our ability to uncover where children are at risk.
“We know we didn’t get it right historically in Rotherham and have apologised for those mistakes.”
There was further criticism of Ofsted yesterday when a separate Commons select committee published its findings into the Birmingham schools controversy.
There was a “worrying and wasteful” lack of collaboration between the numerous inquiries into the Trojan Horse scandal, MPs warned.
Questions also need to be asked about the reliability of Ofsted’s inspection judgments, as the watchdog failed to identify the potential for religious extremist problems at some of the Birmingham schools involved the first time it visited, according to the Commons education select committee.