THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of undermining attempts to combat child sexual exploitation after a plea for extra resources to help the victims of the Rotherham scandal was rejected.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) had asked Home Secretary Theresa May for funds to pay for independent sexual violence advisors as part of their Operation Stovewood investigation.
The Labour MP for Rotherham, Sarah Champion, has stressed that the money would have created a new system to stop young women in Rotherham having to go through the harrowing ordeal of recounting evidence of abuse several times.
The rejected bid and cuts of 825 police staff in South Yorkshire over the next four years has left Ms Champion deeply concerned about the Government’s commitment to helping Rotherham move forward from the discovery of widespread sexual abuse of children and young women over a 16-year period.
Speaking in the House of Commons, she said: “The National Crime Agency’s application to the Home Office for support for Rotherham’s 1,400 victims of child abuse was rejected.
“How are we meant to bring down child sexual exploitation when the Government are cutting police resources?”
The bid had asked the Home Office to fund a new service called Fusion to help victims, and to support health services within the ongoing investigation.
Some of the money would have helped women now in their 20s and 30s who are coming forward as witnesses.
Mrs May said she was confident that the NCA is well resourced and Rotherham remains a priority.
She added that the Government has also protected police budgets, after the precept paid by taxpayers is collected.
In response to Ms Champion, she said: “We have also made money available to the national policing lead precisely in relation to the issue of child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation, and ensured that the National Crime Agency has the resources it needs to be able to do that job.”
She also referenced the Government’s decision to commission the Goddard report, a national inquiry into child sexual abuse in part motivated by the Jimmy Savile scandal, was further evidence of action.
A National Crime Agency spokesperson confirmed it had not been successful in getting the support requested but said its work would continue.
A statement said: “The Government has indicated that additional funding for agencies in Rotherham to support victims and survivors coming forward as a result of Operation Stovewood...is not available.”
Ms Champion said: “The reason we needed that support was for adult victims to help them rebuild their lives.
“Many have children now and are trying to hold down jobs as well as come to terms with their abuse.”
Without the Fusion service, women will still be required to give evidence multiple times.
Rotherham Council and three regional health services had all backed the NCA’s bid.
Meanwhile, an 18-year-old man who intimidated a victim of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham ahead of the trial against his father and cousins has been banned from contacting her.
Kaleem Ali, of Clough Road, Masbrough, Rotherham, left the woman “crying and shaking” and fearing for her safety after he approached her and her children as they were stuck in traffic. He was sentenced today by Rotherham magistrates after he was found guilty of witness intimidation at a trial. Ali’s father - Qurban Ali - and cousins - Arshid, Basharat and Bannaras Hussain - were jailed earlier this year by a judge who heard how 15 women were subjected to a catalogue of trafficking, rape and violence.
Mark Hughes, prosecuting, told magistrates that Ali approached the woman in March last year as she was in her car with her children. Ali addressed the woman and one child by name and appeared to start taking photographs of them on one mobile phone while using another to make a call.
Ali was handed a 12-month community order, a 30-day rehabilitation activity requirement, a 12-week curfew and a three-year restraining order preventing him contacting the woman. He was also ordered to pay £360 costs.