Rotherham child sexual exploitation report: At a glance

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An estimate that 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 is among the key findings of an independent report by Professor Alexis Jay into the handling of child sexual exploitation (CSE) by social services and police in the South Yorkshire town.

Image source, PA
Image caption,
Prof Alexis Jay says it is "hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered"

Appalling abuse

Prof Jay's report describes the abuse as "appalling" and says it included the rape of girls as young as 11 by "large numbers of male perpetrators".

Children were raped by multiple attackers, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated, the report revealed.

Some were doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, while others were threatened with guns, made to watch "brutally violent rapes" and warned they would be next if they told anyone.

Blatant failures

The report said the "collective failures" of political and officer leadership were "blatant" over the first 12 years covered by the inquiry.

Senior managers within social care were said to have "underplayed" the scale and seriousness of the problem.

Police were said to have given CSE no priority, regarding many child victims "with contempt" and failing to act on their abuse as a crime.

The report found that three other publications in 2002, 2003 and 2006 provided "stark evidence" to the police and council.

The first of these was suppressed, which the report said had led to suggestions of a cover-up, while the other two were ignored.

Staff were said to have believed the extent of CSE had been exaggerated, while some were "overwhelmed" by the numbers of cases involved.

Asian perpetrators

The majority of those behind the abuse were described as Asian, while the victims were young white girls.

Yet the report found that councillors failed to engage with the town's Pakistani-heritage community during the inquiry period.

Some councillors were said to have hoped the issue would "go away", thinking it was a "one-off problem".

The report said several staff members were afraid they would be labelled racist if they identified the race of the perpetrators, while others said they were instructed by their managers not to do so.

Several councillors interviewed believed highlighting the race element would "give oxygen" to racist ideas and threaten community cohesion.

Improvements and recommendations

Despite identifying "systemic failings", the report highlighted "many improvements" by the council and police over the past four years.

Police have been trained and resourced to deal with CSE, while there was now a central team in children's social care that worked jointly with police on the issue, the report said.

It made 15 recommendations in total to Rotherham Council, its partners and the Rotherham Safeguarding Children Board.

These included areas involving risk assessment, looked-after children, outreach and accessibility, the joint police and council CSE team, collaboration with Children and Young People Service, ongoing work with victims, post-abuse support, quality assurance, minority ethnic communities and the issue of race, and serious case reviews.