ROTHERHAM Council faces accusations of an abuse cover up in a Government-ordered investigation.
A catalogue of abuse-failings emerging from Rotherham include claims whistle-blowers were made redundant, laptops with abuse data were stolen and staff allowed to leave with severance packages rather than facing disciplinary action.
Louise Casey was asked by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles to inspect the council following the Jay Report last year which found that more than 1,400 children had been subjected to rape, violence and trafficking by gangs of mainly Asian men in the South Yorkshire town between 1997 and 2013.
Today, in her inspection report, Ms Casey said: “This inspection revealed past and present failures to accept, understand and combat the issue of child sexual exploitation, resulting in a lack of support for victims and insufficient action against known perpetrators.”
The report says that when dealing with staff acting inappropriately “severance payments and compromise agreements were too often used, sometimes instead of hearing grievances or disciplinary cases, which was not always appropriate.”
Officials, the report later adds, often chose to “shoot the messenger rather than learn from mistakes that have been made.” It cites the case of a Serious Case review into a child’s death were the council redacted information relating to the child’s links to the local authority.
Those who wanted to speak out on widespread abuse were told not to, the report adds.
“Staff at the council have spoken to Inspectors of being afraid to speak out, told to keep quiet, instructed to cover up, and of a culture where ‘if you want to keep your job, you keep your head down and your mouth shut.’”
Cover-up claims were added to with the revelation that 21 laptops containing abuse information were stolen from council offices in October 2011. There was no sign of a break in and the council did not notify the Information Commissioner’s office.
“The investigation report shows that the matter was discussed with the police and information relating to CSE was present on the laptops, including the names of adults who may have been offenders,” the report says.