Emerging from the darkness: Rotherham's children's services 'transformed' after sexual exploitation scandal

Rotherham Council's children's services have "transformed" since the local authority was rocked by a child sexual exploitation scandal, according to Ofsted.

Rotherham was plunged into darkness and scandal after the sexual abuse cases were exposed by Professor Alexis Jay.

An inspection in 2014 identified "widespread and serious failures" of children in need of help by the council, while another inquiry found at least 1,400 children had been subject to sexual exploitation in the town.

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A November re-inspection of the council's services for children in need of help and protection, children who are being looked after, and care leavers, found the "quality and impact of services for children are transformed".

Rotherham Borough Council's children's services have been assessed as "good" by Ofsted for the first time since the local authority was rocked by a child sexual exploitation scandal.

"Risks to children are recognised early and responded to, ensuring their safety," the watchdog said.

"The corporate response and associated change in the quality of children's services has been impressive."

Revelations about the widespread sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham sparked a national outcry, culminating in the 2014 Jay Report and its damning verdict on failures by the council.

Rotherham Borough Council's children's services have been assessed as "good" by Ofsted for the first time since the local authority was rocked by a child sexual exploitation scandal.

The inquiry found there had been widespread exploitation of children in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 and triggered the resignation of the council's leader, Roger Stone, soon after the report's publication.

Rotherham's police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright, who was the councillor in charge of children's services in the town between 2005 and 2010, also resigned in the following weeks.

Nicky Morgan, the education secretary at the time, said she was "appalled" by the exploitation exposed by the report and announced an early inspection of child protection by Ofsted.

The watchdog later declared the services in Rotherham were "inadequate" and there were "widespread or serious failures that result in children being harmed or at risk of harm".

A later report by Louise Casey was highly critical of the council, saying it was "not fit for purpose", leading the entire political leadership to resign and the Government to step in.

In its latest assessment Ofsted said there was now a "robust response" to risk and a multi-agency team was able to focus on complex abuse work and identify and support children at risk of sexual exploitation.

Children's Commissioner at Rotherham Council, Patricia Bradwell, told the BBC: "The council and its partners have worked very hard to change outcomes for children, young people and families and I am delighted that this hard work has been recognised in this way."

Rotherham Borough Council's children's services have been assessed as "good" by Ofsted for the first time since the local authority was rocked by a child sexual exploitation scandal.

An inspection in 2014 identified "widespread and serious failures" of children in need of help by the council, while an independent inquiry found 1,400 children had been subject to sexual abuse in the town.

A re-inspection of the council's services for children in need of help and protection, children who are being looked after and care leavers, carried out in November and published on Monday, said: "The quality and impact of services for children are transformed.

"Risks to children are recognised early and responded to, ensuring their safety."

Ian Thomas, Rotherham's strategic director of children's services, said the council did not need to focus on race when investigating child sexual exploitation (CSE).

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We've proven, given the profile of the perpetrators that have been brought to justice over the past 20 months, that race is not an issue for us.

"We focus on what's important for the child and we listen to what the child says intently."

Quizzed over whether the council had needed to see race as part of the pattern in the Rotherham scandal, he replied: "No, we needed to see the abuse. In terms of CSE and the race dimension around CSE no race has the monopoly on CSE."

Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “I’m delighted to see the progress that has been made at Rotherham’s children’s social care, resulting in it being rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.

“For too long, children and young people in Rotherham were failed by the authorities in charge of protecting them, so it is especially pleasing that Ofsted has noted the strong partnership working now in place at the council.

“All those who have delivered such vast and rapid improvements in Rotherham should be rightly proud of their efforts. I look forward to them continuing to drive forward this work to make sure every child is kept safe from harm.”

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