Social workers, police and the Crown Prosecution Service “missed opportunities” to stop a Greater Manchester child exploitation ring abusing young girls, a report into the scandal revealed.
”Deficiencies” in the way children’s social care responded to the victims’ needs in Rochdale were caused by “patchy” training of frontline staff, the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board (RBSCB) said in its review into child sexual exploitation (CSE).
The review was ordered in the aftermath of a trial which saw nine Asian men jailed for grooming young white girls for sex.
The picture which emerges from the report is one of vulnerable young girls, some as young as 10, who were being targeted for sexual abuse, being written off by those in authority who believed the girls were “making their own choices”.
The review comes just days after The Times published a report which alleged that agencies in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, were aware of extensive and co-ordinated abuse of white girls by some Asian men and detailed a range of offences for which no-one has been prosecuted.
Rochdale Council said it has used the review’s findings to implement a catalogue of changes and improvements.
The report looked at how agencies including the council, police, NHS and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) worked between 2007 and 2012 to safeguard children and young people who were at risk of sexual exploitation.
The report, which specifically followed the treatment of one 15-year-old victim, says: “While some organisations were consistently supportive in their response, overall child welfare organisations missed opportunities to provide a comprehensive, co-ordinated and timely response and, in addition, the criminal justice system missed opportunities to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
RBSCB chairwoman Lynne Jones said: “We have responded to this review and improvements have been implemented. I believe organisations are working better together, sharing information to ensure children are protected and that perpetrators of these crimes are prosecuted.”
Jon Brown, sexual abuse lead for the NSPCC, said: “Yet again we see similar concerns and failings coming up in cases of grooming gangs.
”The report states that victims were viewed as ‘making their own choices’ and ‘engaging in consensual sexual activity’ even though they were below the age of consent.
”No one can consent to sexual abuse, whatever their age, and children under 16 can never consent to sex. The adults involved must always be held fully responsible for what happens.
”These vulnerable girls were groomed and exploited and should have been treated as victims from the start.”
He went on: “The report also found that many different agencies were aware of child sexual exploitation but were not joined up effectively.
”We must now progress the Children’s Commissioner’s recommendation on making sure local safeguarding boards bring together all information and intelligence so individual events are not dealt with in isolation but are seen as part of a wider picture.
”We do however welcome Rochdale’s openness in publishing this report and accept that huge strides have been made to stop these failings occurring again.”