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Offences against Children: Rotherham

Question for Department for Education

UIN 41063, tabled on 20 June 2016

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what measures her Department implemented in response to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham to ensure that statutory policy, guidance and legislation was being effectively delivered by (a) councils, (b) children's services, (c) police, (d) schools, (e) health bodies and (f) other agencies with a statutory responsibility to safeguard young people from child sexual exploitation.

Answered on

29 June 2016

It is hugely important that all cases where a child might be suffering and/or is at risk of harm are looked into, so that children get the help they need to prevent issues escalating. There is a very clear framework in place for all professionals who work with children to report concerns. The statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) emphasises that safeguarding is the responsibility of all professionals who work with children.

The Department does receive correspondence and information from professionals and members of the public, alerting staff that they believe a child may be at risk of harm. Procedures are in place to ensure that in such circumstances if the Department’s staff and its Agencies, including the Education Funding Agency (EFA), believe a child is at immediate risk of harm, steps are taken to notify the Director of Children’s Services in the relevant local authority within 24 hours. Local Authorities have duties under the Children Act 1989 to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It is for the local authority to undertake any assessment and provide services to keep children safe.

In response to the failures we saw in Rotherham and elsewhere, the Government issued a revised version of the statutory guidance, ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children’ in 2015, setting out an unambiguous statement of accountability about the overarching responsibilities of local authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children in their area. It also made clear the vital role of other professionals including police, schools, social workers and health in keeping children safe. ‘Working Together’ provides a clear framework for monitoring the effectiveness of local services and how they work together in fulfilling their duties.

In discharging our role on safeguarding, the Department and EFA may also involve Ofsted. Where Ofsted considers a local authority to be failing in its responsibility to safeguard children then we will consider if we need to take decisive action and intervene directly to secure improvements.

The Secretary of State for Education issued a direction in October 2014 appointing a Children’s Social Care Commissioner in Rotherham, with the task of investigating and addressing the council’s failings and recommending immediate next steps. Joint Directions with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government were published in February 2015, enabling a team of Commissioners to exercise the functions of the council and oversee a programme of improvement.

In March 2015, a number of Secretaries of State wrote to all chief constables; leaders and lead members of councils; chief executives of local authorities; health system leaders; and directors of children’s services to reinforce the need for leaders to take responsibility for addressing the failures shown by the Jay report and other inspections in their area. To ensure effective delivery we have worked with Ofsted, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation and the Care Quality Commission to deliver a new system of joint targeted area inspections to better assess how local agencies are working in a co-ordinated manner to identify and respond to children at risk of abuse and neglect. The first round of inspections is underway with a specific focus on child sexual exploitation and a thematic report, setting out findings from the inspections and highlighting good practice, will be published in September.