Rotherham grooming scandal whistleblower Jayne Senior “let down” now-adult survivors of child sexual exploitation (CSE) who sought her help through a publicly-funded charity she runs, a three-year £60,000 independent investigation has concluded.
Mrs Senior, a former youth worker who was awarded an MBE in June 2016 for her work in exposing the nature and extent of CSE in the South Yorkshire town and was elected as a Labour councillor earlier that year, has been strongly criticised in a 124-page report investigating allegations against her by 12 complainants.
The grievances centre around her conduct as the chief executive of an organisation called Swinton Lock Activity Centre, which provided support to CSE victims, among other services.
She told The Yorkshire Post the issue was “a very disappointing matter” but would not comment further, citing unspecified legal action. Swinton Lock’s trustees said they “disagree with many of the report’s findings”.
A copy of the report provided by one complainant to this newspaper said several complainants had alleged they had not given permission for details of their abuse to be included in Mrs Senior’s autobiography Broken and Betrayed: The true story of the Rotherham abuse scandal by the woman who fought to expose it.
Mrs Senior, who had previously worked at Rotherham’s Risky Business youth service, came to national attention as the whistleblower who had supplied information to The Times for a series of stories exposing failures by the authorities to effectively tackle grooming gangs in the town.
The investigation, conducted by former interim strategic director of children’s services at Bradford Council Gladys Rhodes White and social work specialist Dr Donna Peach from the University of Salford, was ordered by Rotherham Council – which at the time was one of several organisations which provided funding to Swinton Lock – in August 2016 after complaints about Mrs Senior’s conduct were made to the authority by three people.
Their report has found no evidence Mrs Senior had made any inappropriate financial gain but concluded: “A key complaint from the survivors is that Mrs Senior has inappropriately shared information and misrepresented their stories and has personally benefited from doing so – on balance we partially upheld those allegations.
"Equally, there is evidence to suggest Mrs Senior’s capacity to maintain a high standard of professional practice has not been consistent. Our interviews with complainants revealed that subsequent impact on victims and survivors was significant and profound.
"We conclude that the complainants understandably feel let down by Mrs Senior. For some, their experience at SLAC reportedly delayed their access to what they now consider to be an appropriate support service offered by another organisation.”
The investigation also heard from four witnesses in support of Mrs Senior who were critical of the conduct of some complainants. The report said: “Camps that are ‘for’ or ‘opposed’ to Mrs Senior have emerged and have become entrenched.”
Investigators have recommended Mrs Senior and Swinton Lock Activity Centre “meaningfully address” the concerns that have been upheld.
The report said: “In acknowledging the impact on survivors of her actions and taking steps to repair the relationship, SLAC Trustees and Mrs Senior could play a significant part in healing some of these very deep wounds and assist in restoring relationships.”
It added: “SLAC Trustees may wish to consider whether they believe Mrs Senior is able to consistently demonstrate the high levels of integrity and honesty expected by anyone employed to work with vulnerable people.”
A Rotherham Council spokesman said: “We can confirm an independent report into complaints received about Swinton Lock Activity Centre when it received funding from the council has now been completed and shared with the charity and complainants.
“As the services of Swinton Lock Activity Centre are no longer commissioned by the council, this report is now a matter for the organisation to consider. The content of the report are for the Trustees of the charity.
“It is usual that reports into complaints are provided only to those involved, as has happened in this case.
“The Council undertakes regular re-tendering for services and did so in 2016. The Council's contract with Swinton Lock ended in mid-2017 as planned.”
Charity unhappy with investigation
Jayne Senior has said she cannot fully comment on the report - while Swinton Lock’s trustees say they “disagree with many of the report’s findings”.
In an emailed statement, Mrs Senior said: “This is a very disappointing matter and is currently subject to legal actions to which I cannot comment.”
A statement on behalf of the Swinton Lock Activity Centre said: “Rotherham Council carried out an extensive nearly three-year long investigation into Swinton Lock Activity Centre. Swinton Lock Activity Centre robustly defended itself against allegations made against us and our employees.
“The trustees of Swinton Lock Activity Centre have been told by RMBC that it is up to us to take appropriate actions. We disagree with many of the report’s findings, but we can confirm that we have thoroughly reviewed the report and taken actions where appropriate.
“We are proud of the work carried out by Swinton Lock Activity Centre including supporting victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation.
“Dealing with the RMBC investigation has prevented us from applying for much needed grant funding to expand and enhance our services and we now look forward to building our services in the future.”