Social workers in Rotherham appear exonerated from any wrongdoing resulting from the controversy surrounding the family court proceedings involving child sexual exploitation survivor Sammy Woodhouse, which emerged last week.
Ms Woodhouse went public with details of the fact the father of her child – a man in prison serving a long sentence after being convicted of her rape – had been contacted by social workers with information about legal proceedings involving the child.
The revelations sparked national controversy and the Ministry of Justice is expected to issue a fresh statement imminently on the legislation surrounding such proceedings and how it should be implemented.
In the meantime, Rotherham Council leader has addressed a full meeting of the council to confirm it has now been clarified that Rotherham social workers have been found to operate within legal guidelines in such circumstances.
Coun Read was unable to comment directly on last week’s case because of legal restrictions, but he said there had been a dialogue with the Ministry of Justice and said: “They have told us there is no suggestion Rotherham Council has operated outside current practice guidelines.”
He told councillors: “Our priority remains working to safeguard vulnerable children in the borough.”
The issue focused on whether parents without parental responsibility must, legally, be informed about legal proceedings involving their child.
“Informed is the key word,” said Coun Read.
“I am increasingly confident our staff have followed national guidelines correctly,” he said.
He said he wanted to make it “absolutely clear” social workers had not tried and did not try to use the family courts to prove violent convicted criminals access to children.
Following national rules did not mean those rules were correct, he said.
Rotherham Council had made huge progress since 2014, after the child sexual exploitation scandal broke, he said, adding: “Last week felt like we might have slipped backwards.
“This is a very different place to what it was in 2014. This is a better council than the one visited by Alexis Jay. We will not get everything right. We will act with integrity in putting it right,” he said.