Praise for Rotherham fight against child sex abuse

ROTHERHAM has made “remarkable” progress in the way officials tackle child sex abuse after previously being heavily criticised for its poor response, a former leading police officer has claimed.

An independent review into the way officials in the South Yorkshire borough deal with child sexual exploitation (CSE) says it “now finds itself in a better position” to address the problem than most other local authorities.

Steve Ashley, the independent chairman of Rotherham’s local safeguarding children board and a former leading officer with Merseyside Police, carried out the review after starting his role in September.

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His investigation is one of a number of reviews and inspections into the way child sex abuse is dealt with in Rotherham, where the council has previously apologised to victims who had been “let down” by its “systemic failure”.

The Yorkshire Post revealed last month that the council is facing a bill running into hundreds of thousands of pounds over its failure to tackle CSE after it emerged the number of potential compensation claims is already in double figures.

Mr Ashley, a former chief superintendent, praised improvements made in recent months, but said there were areas that “need further development work”.

He called for improvements including a dedicated senior manager for the multi-agency team and said there would be advantages to moving it from its base at Maltby police station.

And he recommended that the role of the team should be clearer, as without this “there is a danger the team will be subsumed in a mountain of referrals and case work and will lose focus”.

He said: “This is a dynamic and fast-changing area of business for all of the organisations, set in a time where they have to consider their own priorities according to available resources.

“I do not underestimate the difficulties faced by organisations, and given these current restrictions I believe the progress made in Rotherham up to 2013 is remarkable.”