So maybe there are people in Rotherham who should be held accountable for what happened? Like Shaun Wright for instance?
The Labour party has called for the resignation of South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, Shaun Wright, in the wake of the child sex abuse scandal in Rotherham.
Wright was a Labour cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Rotherham council from 2005 to 2010 when he received three reports about widespread abuse but failed to act, according toProf Alexis Jay’s damning report on the sexual exploitation of 1,400 children over 16 years in the South Yorkshire town.
Speaking publicly for the first time since the report was published, Wright insisted on Wednesday that he had acted properly, and rejected calls for him to go.
Hmm. If it were true that he acted properly, then what happened wouldn’t have happened.
Wright told the BBC: “The scale of the problem has come as a surprise to me.” He said he was not aware of the “industrial scale” of the abuse.
As he defended his position, a Labour party spokesman told reporters asking for Ed Miliband’s view on the matter that Wright should quit. “The report into child abuse in Rotherham was devastating in its findings. Vulnerable children were repeatedly abused and then let down. In the light of this report, it is appropriate that South Yorkshire police and crime commissioner Shaun Wright should step down,” he said. The call has been echoed by David Blunkett, the former Labourhome secretary and Sheffield MP.
Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor, told BBC radio’s The World at One that Wright should stand down because “of the failures of leadership”. He said: “It’s important that people in positions of responsibility take responsibility.”
That’s the usual approach, I believe. Even if the people at the top think they “acted properly” they’re still supposed to take responsibility if all the wheels come off. That’s one of the downsides of being at the top.
Rotherham’s Labour council leader, Roger Stone, resigned within hours of the publication of Jay’s report.
There have been repeated calls for Wright to do the same. Education minister Nick Gibb said those responsible for policy decisions which contributed to the scandal “should be held to account”.
He told ITV News: “It is quite appalling that the more vulnerable the children, the more horrific their stories, the less they are believed by the statutory authorities. And those that took those policy decisions I think should be held to account.”
As calls intensified on Wednesday for Shaun Wright to step down as police commissioner, his record as Rotherham council’s cabinet member for children and young people’s services came under uncomfortable scrutiny.
Wright took up the post in April 2005, staying in the job until 2010, and served 12 years in total as a Labour councillor in Rotherham. Shortly after he took over responsibility for children and young people, an Ofsted inspection in 2006 declared Rotherham’s children’s services department to be “good”.
Three years into his tenure, following an unannounced inspection in August 2009, Ofsted downgraded the department to “performs poorly” – its lowest rating – saying there was “sufficient concern that the safety of children cannot be assured”.
Then a year later it was declared back to ok again.
Wright told BBC’s Look North programme on Wednesday that he was “surprised” by the scale of sexual exploitation suffered by children in Rotherham since 1997. Yet according to Professor Alexis Jay’s investigation, he commissioned a series of reports directly addressing the problem of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the town while in office. All made abundantly clear that large numbers of children were being groomed for sex by gangs of mainly Asian males.
So how could he be surprised? Did he just forget the whole thing?
Jay said that by 2005, when Wright took over responsibility for the protection of vulnerable young people, neither councillors nor senior officers in the council could say “we didn’t know” about CSE. Seminars for elected members and senior officers in 2004-05 presented the abuse “in the most explicit terms”, said Jay.
In her report, Jay notes that executives within Rotherham children’s social care services formally recognised the problem of child sexual exploitation back in 2001, though there were many known cases of CSE in the years before then.
She said the council and police ignored “stark evidence” from reports in 2002, 2003 and 2006, which “could not have been clearer in their description of the situation in Rotherham. The first of these reports was effectively suppressed because some senior officers disbelieved the data it contained. This had led to suggestions of cover-up. The other two reports set out the links between child sexual exploitation and drugs, guns and criminality in the borough. These reports were ignored and no action was taken to deal with the issues that were identified in them.”
Apparently Labour is telling him if he doesn’t want to be pushed he’d better hurry up and jump.