FALSE assurances given by the Government’s care watchdog allowed thousands of Yorkshire children to be abused, Ofsted officials have been told.
The senior Ofsted director whose department gave Rotherham Council an adequate inspection even as abuse was ongoing has been told to apologise for her role in letting people think girls in the town were safe.
Ofsted social care director Debbie Jones gave only a guarded apology to MPs yesterday, saying hers was one of many organisations that “had made mistakes”
But she refused to give assurances that another Rotherham style abuse scandal could not happen despite changes she has put in place to toughen up inspections.
In a confrontational session before a Commons select committee, Ms Jones was told by one MP that “you do not provide a good public service, you are trying to cover yourself. “
Simon Danczuk told the Ofsted director: “You are paid public funds to keep children safe, paid reasonably well for it, to ensure public services are not failing children, but it is fair to say Ofsted failed to do that to a decent standard where children should have been protected.”
The committee brought the director in to give evidence after highlighting in their report concerns that Ofsted missed the chance to stop abuse in Rotherham on eight different occasions.
While concerns about Rotherham Council’s supervision procedures were mentioned, there was no demand for action.
Asked repeatedly for an apology, Ms Jones said Ofsted was working under the standards of the time, only adding that she was aware she shared blame along with other institutions.
The fear now, MPs said, was that it would be hard to believe inspections given to other authorities over the last decade were also providing a true reflection of child safety.
In a blunt assessment, Ms Jones admitted “it would be wrong of me to sit here today and say there will not be another Rotherham, I cannot say that.”
The committee’s inquiry comes after the Professor Jay report revealed more than 1,400 girls were abused for more than a decade as social workers and police officers turned a blind eye.
As MPs demanded an apology from Ofsted, the Home Affairs select committee was hearing evidence that the Government’s inquiry into historic claims of child abuse by establishment figures was facing yet more controversy.
A member of the independent panel set up by the Government told MPs she has been “bullied” by the barrister conducting the embattled inquiry.
Sharon Evans, a child abuse survivor and chief executive of the Dot Com Children’s Foundation, which helps prevent children from becoming victims of abuse, said she felt “bullied” by counsel Ben Emmerson QC.
Ms Evans claimed Mr Emmerson was “overstepping the mark” with his advice, including demands she re-write letters sent to the Home Secretary, telling MPs she believed he was “running the show”.