Statement ref calls for child sexual exploitation inquiry
We are a transparent council and we welcome examination of the effectiveness of our services. We've had three inquiries into this issue this year alone and will also be scrutinised by the Jay Inquiry.
At Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons yesterday (Sep 14), the Rt Hon Prime Minister Theresa May said in answer to a question from telford MP Lucy Allan: "My honourable friend has just shown the cross party concern that there is on the issue of child abuse and child sexual exploitation. It is absolutely right, as she says, that we are able to look into the abuses and crimes if the past.
"We will need to learn important lessons from that as to why institutions that were supposed to protect children failed to do so.
"It is for the authorities in Telford to look specifically at how they wish to address those issues in Telford, but I am sure that my Right Honourable Friend the Home Secretary has heard my Honourable Friend's comments and that she will want to take that up with her."
Telford & Wrekin Council’s Children’s Services were reviewed by seven independent OFSTED inspectors, who were based at the council’s Addenbrooke House headquarters for four weeks during June and July.
The Telford & Wrekin Safeguarding Children Board has also been inspected by OFSTED and its work was rated as good. During the inspection, the OFSTED inspectors spoke to one of the victims of the crimes investigated by Operation Chalice.
The council has also carried out an independent all party scrutiny review into how agencies work together to tackle child sexual exploitation.
The OFSTED report itself states: “Work with children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation is very strong. The local authority has been a champion for tackling this issue. It provides leadership to partner agencies, with who this work is well co-ordinated. Work to protect children who go missing from home or care is thorough and improving.
"There is a strong commitment from the local authority and its partners to tackle child sexual exploitation... Consequently, young people receive comprehensive and well-coordinated services that make a positive difference."
The national review into child sexual exploitation in towns and cities across the UK is being chaired by Alexis Jay, who carried out the inquiry into what happened in Rotherham. Therefore the review that people are calling for is already taking place.
The victim quoted in some national media is now in her 30s so the abuse she experienced appears to date back at least 15 years, which is very much territory that the national inquiry will cover.
We have noted Lucy Allan’s comments but are disappointed that she has chosen to ignore the outcome of this summer’s independent OFSTED review despite the Council briefing her on this before its publication. Lucy did not raise any issues about this to the Council at the time or subsequently.
Given the recent findings of OFSTED and the fact that the Government’s own independent inquiry is already committed to looking at what happened here in Telford, we do not feel at this time that a further inquiry is necessary.
We would like to be clear that we are under no illusion that like other areas of the country there are significant concerns around the sexual exploitation of children in Telford. It has happened in the past and it is happening today.
These are some of the most abhorrent offences against some of the most vulnerable members of our society and as such we are keen to emphasise our commitment to investigating these crimes and protecting children from harm.
We would also make the point that none of the victims of the crimes that were investigated by Operation Chalice were in local authority care at the point that the investigation commenced. It is correct to say that some of the victims were taken into care during the course of the investigation, but that was only for their own safety.
West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion said: “Good progress has been made in tackling this issue in Telford in recent years. That progress has been recognised by numerous official bodies and must be acknowledged.
“However it is clear there is no complacency from myself, the police, the council or any other partners involved. It remains our very top priority to safeguard young people, reassure our communities and bring offenders to justice.”