Live updates

Police & Council focus on helping Rotherham victims

The two agencies that have taken the brunt of the criticism that followed the Jay Report say their primary focus over the last year has been persuading victims in Rotherham to trust them again.

South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham Council say they have gone a long way to dismantle the organisational culture that allowed police officers and council officials to treat young abuse victims as wayward irritants.

Ian Thomas, Rotherham Council's strategic director of children's services, was brought in at the end of last year to rescue a beleaguered department.

He said he was as shocked as anyone by the "industrial scale" of what Professor Jay uncovered, but when he arrived in December he found a team committed to turning things around.

"There was a sense of acceptance when I spoke to people and, when I spoke to staff, they wanted to be part of the solution.

"For me, it's about really listening to what children and young people tell us and a culture of never giving up on a child again.

"We're trying to instil that but it does take time.

"We've put things in place to improve our service, improve our practice. Things are moving in the right direction but its not done yet. Progress is being made, green shoots, but there's still a long way to go."

– Ian Thomas, Rotherham Council's Director of Children's Services

The director said his team is currently supporting 2,300 children, of whom 73 are sexual exploitation cases. He said extra social workers have been drafted in and he hopes a decrease in individual staff workload will give them a better chance to do their work properly.

"Over the last 12 months, if nothing else, restoring confidence has been really, really important and we've still got a journey to go on.

"The key focus has been around the victims and survivors. We need to understand better what the issues are for them and we could have done better and what we need to do for the future."

– Chief Supt Jason Harwin, Rotherham's Police commander

Mr Harwin said he understands that the public want to see arrests and perpetrators jailed.

He said South Yorkshire Police has arrested 460 people for child abuse offences in the last 12 months with 76 of these suspected of involvement in "grooming and facilitation".

And he said 54 people have been charged with child sexual exploitation related offences across the force, 22 in Rotherham.

The senior officer said there are currently 155 live CSE investigations in South Yorkshire, with 46 of these in Rotherham.

He said there are still many barriers to bringing suspects to justice but he said his officers now had other tools, short of prosecution, to control suspected offenders, including abduction notices and sexual harm prevention orders.

"Victim Support identified a real need in victims for one familiar face to support them through the whole experience of deciding whether to report abuse, being interviewed by the police, and their case making its way through the criminal justice system.

"We are providing that consistent support through our Vulnerable Victims project, which is funded by South Yorkshire PCC.

"Victim Support's specially trained staff and volunteers offer free, confidential information and support to anyone affected by crime - regardless of when the crime took place or if the police are involved.

"Call our Supportline team on 08 08 16 89 111 or visit victimsupport.org.uk to find out how we can help."

– Lesley McLean, manager Victim Support in Yorkshire

Advertisement

Child abuse scandal council order review

Model portraying victim of child grooming Credit: ITV News

A number of women are to sue Rotherham Council for failures to protect them from sexual abuse by predatory men when they were children.

A spokesperson for Rotherham Borough Council today said following Operation Yewtree, the authority asked South Yorkshire Police to thoroughly review all historical cases that may be linked to child sexual exploitation.

He added: "That review is ongoing and continues with a number of live and ongoing investigations. The Council wishes to support SYP and not potentially compromise this process. As such we will not be making further comments on the article without further consultation with our police colleagues."

Advertisement

Video: Questions over child abuse

Rotherham Council's Chief Executive and the Director of Children's Services face a grilling from MPs this afternoon over the grooming and sexual abuse of young girls in the area.

The Home Affairs Select Committee wants to know why no action was taken for so many years. Our political correspondent Ben Erlam has sent this report from Westminster.

Load more updates