CONFIDENTIAL email and postal addresses have been set up to encourage people with information about the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham to come forward.
Alexis Jay, who is leading an independent inquiry into the grooming and abuse of children from 1997 to the present day, said she hoped the private lines of communication would make it easier for people to provide what may be important information to the investigation.
Ms Jay, a former Chief Social Work Adviser to the Scottish Government, was appointed to the role in October last year in the wake of severe criticism of Rotherham Council and South Yorkshire Police for failing to act when it was known young teenagers in the town were being preyed upon.
“I’m extremely grateful for the help and co-operation I have received since I began working in Rotherham,” she said. “The majority of the individuals with whom I need to meet during the inquiry have already been identified through my earlier research and discussions, and I already have a developing understanding of the context in which the review is being conducted.
“However, it is important that people who may not be known to us but who feel they have something pertinent to contribute have the opportunity to do so, in the knowledge that the information they provide with be treated in the strictest confidence”.
Ms Jay has spent the past two months gathering information and carrying desktop file reviews, along with meeting key individuals in the early stages of the inquiry. The findings are due to be published in the summer.
Information sent via the email and postal links - which are detailed below - will be accessed directly by Ms Jay.
Last month it was revealed that Rotherham Council is facing a bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds over its failure to tackle child sexual exploitation with the number of potential compensation claims already in double figures.
David Greenwood, a solicitor representing women who were allegedly groomed for sex when underage by gangs of men in Rotherham, has begun serving claims on the council and is gathering evidence on a total of 11 cases, all of which are expected to result in legal action.
Further victims are expected to come forward and with individual claims potentially worth several tens of thousands of pounds the payout is likely to be substantial.
Action is also being contemplated against South Yorkshire Police, who have been similarly criticised for overlooking the damage being done to vulnerable girls.
The spotlight initially fell on Rotherham in 2010 when five men, described by a judge as “sexual predators”, were given lengthy jail terms after they were found guilty of grooming teenage girls.
The prosecution was the first of a series of high-profile cases in the last three years in different parts of the country.
Allegations that authorities had known about the abuse for several years and not acted has led to a range of official investigations, including a probe by the Home Affairs Select Committee. The MPs’ report, published in June last year, criticised Rotherham Council for being “inexcusably slow” to recognise widespread, organised abuse of children, many of whom were in care, was taking place.
The committee attacked the council’s “woeful lack of professional curiosity” while senior leadership failed in their duty of care towards abused youngsters, many of whom were treated in an “appalling manner”.
However, recent reviews of Rotherham’s performance have praised improvements. Earlier this month, Steve Ashley, the independent chairman of the local safeguarding children board and a former leading officer with Merseyside Police, said “remarkable” progress had been made while last month an appraisal by children’s charity Barnardo’s also reported promising developments.
* The inquiry can be contacted confidentially via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or via free postal address: Freepost RTHE-GRBE-XASC, Rotherham Independent Inquiry, PO Box 783, Rotherham, S60 9JY.