A SOLICITOR representing victims of child sexual exploitation has sharply criticised Rotherham Council after a recent damning inspection report into a children’s home revealed serious safeguarding failures which have led to its closure.
David Greenwood said it was “staggering” the council could have potentially put children at risk again following the fallout from the town’s grooming scandal during which more than 1,400 children were abused over a 16-year period.
Official inquiries held Rotherham Council, along with South Yorkshire Police, responsible for failing to protect vulnerable children - with the failure to stop abusers targeting children’s homes among the key issues highlighted.
But an Ofsted inspection report into Woodview children’s home, completed last month, found children were “not kept safe” and were potentially at risk of exploitation. Mr Greenwood said the findings mirrored the kind of conditions endured by children in the previous decade.
The report flagged up a series of concerns including poor standards of risk assessment which meant “it is unclear how the risks of sexual exploitation are identified, assessed, and reviewed. This is a significant risk to young people’s safety as potentially this issue remains unknown.”
Ofsted also found staff didn’t look for children when they went missing or report fully to the police.
The report said: “Young people are not reported as absent. Staff do not actively look for young people when they are missing. Information is not shared effectively with the police. It leaves significant periods of time where young people’s whereabouts are unknown.”
The Ofsted findings emerged just over a year after the publication of a landmark report by Professor Alexis Jay which catalogued a raft of council and police failures which allowed widescale abuse of vulnerable children to go largely unchecked.
Rotherham Council closed the Woodview home following the inspection which was the third in a matter of months to find standards of care were inadequate.
Mr Greenwood, who is representing more than 60 victims seeking compensation from the council, said: “I have heard accounts from young women who were sexually exploited in Rotherham during the 2000s and the conditions described by some of them are exactly the same as those recorded in this Ofsted report.
“It is staggering after everything that has happened in Rotherham to see that children have been put at risk in this way. The council have taken the right step to close the home and I hope the childrens’ needs are met in other placements.”
Safeguarding Director Jane Parfrement said: “We had sought to tackle the complex issues on site but we had already concluded the home would be better closed, and alternative plans were put in place to move the residents to placements which could provide a better standard of care. “We are reviewing the care offered in our remaining four children’s homes and will be putting improvement plans in place across them.”