After Rotherham, councils are told to review child protection

Education secretary Nicky MorganEducation secretary Nicky Morgan
Education secretary Nicky Morgan
Councils have been ordered to review the way they protect children in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

A letter sent to council leaders by two senior Ministers says they should “ensure that you cannot be accused of similar failings” to those found by Professor Alexis Jay who criticised Rotherham Council and the police for failing to protect 1,400 children from abuse.

The letter sent this week by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles and Education Secretary Nicky Morgan also suggests the inspection of Rotherham Council by the Government’s troubled families adviser, Louise Casey, ordered in the aftermath of the Jay report will have more wide ranging implications for other councils than previously thought.

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It makes clear that the approach of councils generally to the protection of children will be put under the microscope by Ms Casey alongside her investigation into Rotherham.

“We cannot undo the permanent harm that these children have suffered,” it says.

“But we can and should take steps to ensure that this never happens again and make sure that all local authorities deliver on their essential duty to protect vulnerable children.”

York Council leader James Alexander said his authority had already begun to take action in the wake of the Jay report.

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“Recent events in Rotherham shocked us all and lessons need to be learned by councillors, council staff, police and Government,” he said.

“I have convened a meeting of the cabinet and senior managers to receive information upon how York’s services differ from Rotherham and I have received support from opposition leaders for all councillors to receive a briefing at our next meeting of full council.

“Whilst I am confident York doesn’t have the same difficulties Rotherham has had, child exploitation sadly occurs in every community. City of York Council will provide Louise Casey with any help and support she requires. York will also play its part in the region to improve child protection.”

The letter to councils emerged as it was announced former Doncaster and Kirklees Council chief executive Rob Vincent will lead a “partnership board” overseeing the improvement of Rotherham Council following the Jay report.

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Mr Vincent was the man the Government turned to in 2010 to begin the turnaround of Doncaster Council after it was described as “failing” by the Audit Commission.

The board will also include the chief executive of the Local Government Association, senior figures from two London authorities, the leader of Barnsley Council, new Rotherham Council leader Paul Lakin and Coun Caven Vines, leader of the council’s UK Independence Party group which has been the main opposition party in Rotherham since May’s local elections.

Coun Lakin said: “We owe the survivors of child sexual exploitation nothing less than our pledge to do everything we can to better protect young people in the future.

“We know public confidence in our services is rightly shaken and we are determined to win it back by our actions.

“This independently-chaired Board is made up of highly experienced officers and elected members from across the country and will guide and challenge our improvements plans over the coming months.”