- Chief Executive to report.
Further to Minute No. 69 of the meeting of the Cabinet held on 4th September, 2013, the Chief Executive introduced a report which set out in detail information about the commissioning of an Independent Inquiry into historic child sexual exploitation cases in Rotherham, the Terms of Reference for the Inquiry and process for appointing a person of appropriate calibre to undertake the Inquiry as set out in the report.
On the 29th August the Police and Crime Commissioner announced three inquiries into matters relating to child sexual exploitation. The Terms of Reference of these inquiries were not yet available.
The had been substantial media coverage during the last twelve months regarding young people from within Rotherham who have been sexually exploited in the past. It was, therefore, proposed that the Council commission an Independent Inquiry into past cases of child sexual exploitation within Rotherham covering the period 1997 to 2013.
The Council had approached the Local Government Association (LGA) to advise on the availability and suitability of individuals of the right calibre, standing and experience to undertake the Inquiry. The Local Government Association had agreed to commission the services of the relevant individual on behalf of the Council, subject to the Council agreeing the budget and underwriting it. This would further demonstrate the independence of the inquiry process.
The Inquiry had as its main focus finding out what went wrong and ensuring that the right things were put in place. It was not intended to be a disciplinary investigation. The Council would need to consider the findings of the report and its response to it. If there was the need for follow-up action by the Council of any type, it would be addressed in the response to the Inquiry report.
The challenges attached to undertaking this Inquiry should not be under estimated. It was examining matters across a considerable time-span and whilst the Council’s paper based records were good, as was inevitably the case with large organisations, many people at all levels of the organisation who had involvement or influence in some of these events would have moved on.
The Council had improved its services for safeguarding young people following Government Intervention in December 2009 and was able to demonstrate this. An Improvement Board operated in Rotherham throughout the whole of 2010 and the early part of 2011. It designed and oversaw the implementation of an improvement plan, the Council was taken out of intervention in 2011 and there have been subsequent Ofsted inspections in 2010, 2012 and 2013 and a Peer Review in January 2011 demonstrating sustained improvement.
However, no single agency acting alone could protect young people from harm. Prior to the most recent series of media articles in August of this year and decision for an Independent Inquiry at the Cabinet meeting on 4th September, the Council already had plans in place for Barnardo’s to undertake a multi-agency review of child sexual exploitation and Missing from Home Services within Rotherham. This work was imminent. The work would continue and it was noted that the newly appointed Chair of the LCSB, who worked on Operation Yewtree and, therefore, had a strong background on child sexual exploitation, would play a pivotal role.
The work could be used to inform the Independent Inquiry, but it would not duplicate it as the main focus was the effectiveness and quality of inter-agency working. The work would provide a further strand to enable the Council to continue to drive service improvement.
Cabinet Members were also informed that the Chair of the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board was to undertake a diagnostic assessment on the 17th and 18th October involving some people outside of Rotherham, which would only assist with the Inquiry.
Resolved:- (1) That the Terms of Reference for the Independent Inquiry and the process for appointing a person of appropriate calibre to undertake the Inquiry be approved. Should the person appointed suggest amendments to the Terms of Reference, the Chief Executive be given the delegated authority to agree any such amendments (with any changes being reported to Cabinet).
(2) That the Chief Executive be authorised to make appropriate budget provision for the Independent Inquiry.
(3) That a further report be submitted confirming the appointment of the Independent Person and Inquiry costs when known.
(4) That the Inquiry report be received once finalised, together with recommendations on action the Council proposes to take in response to the findings of the Inquiry.
(5) That both the Inquiry report and the Council’s response be made public in a timely way following its completion.