Priti Patel told the Commons today that victims of sexual exploitation had “been failed by many aspects of the state and society” and in response to a question from Rotherham MP Sarah Champion, pledged to ensure victims were not failed again.
The Jay Report, published in 2014, found that between 1997 and 2013 more than 1,400 children in Rotherham were exposed to severe levels of sexual abuse and violence in Rotherham.
The report said this was a “conservative estimate”.
Labour’s Ms Champion said in many ways her constituency was now “fortunate” because the National Crime Agency was dealing with past cases.
But she said: “Will [Ms Patel] also look at cases across the country, the resources that the police forces have there, but also the local authorities who have to step in and put the child protection in place and the victim support in place? There isn't enough nationally”.
Ms Patel said Ms Champion had raised the issue with her a number of years ago and added: “I've recently announced the Home Office will publish a paper to help us better understand characteristics associated with groups [who perpetrate sexual exploitation], I would welcome and ask [Ms Champion] to work with me and join our external reference group that I have established on this important area.”
She said victims had experienced “a terrible time” and been “failed”, and she added: “We can never allow that to happen again.”
She said that meant “making sure that no other aspect of the state or organisation or third party or government institution turns a blind eye and ignores the needs of individuals in the way in which happened in her own constituency.”
The Jay Report said: “No one knows the true scale of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham over the years.”
Ms Champion, who repeatedly warned about Pakistani men raping and abusing young girls in her constituency, was previously asked by Ms Patel to join a review panel looking at Home Office research into the characteristics of perpetrators of abuse, including whether ethnicity is a factor.
Ms Champion previously told The Times: “We’ve had two big reports into Rotherham which both identify Pakistani heritage as being a common denominator.
“I understand the nervousness people have around race. This is about child protection and crimes against children. You should follow the evidence regardless of who they are.”
She added: “We need to put this issue to bed for once and for all. Ethnicity might not be a determining factor but the issue needs to be investigated and the research made public.”