Public inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation – FAQ
Many people are asking – why won’t the Council hold an inquiry into Child Sexual exploitation in Telford and Wrekin? Here are answers to questions people are asking.
Does the Council believe an inquiry is needed?
Yes – and it always has and has always said so. The Council has expected this to come through the national Independent Inquiry in Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) chaired by Prof Alexis Jay. We very much welcome the IICSA inquiry covering Telford. In September 2016, the Council discussed a motion, which did not seek support for the commissioning of an Independent Inquiry. This was unanimously supported by councillors of all parties. Minutes of Full Council meeting 22 Sept 2016
What is the national Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse doing?
The Council contacted Professor Alexis Jay, Inquiry Chair and author of the Rotherham Inquiry, on March 12 after press coverage of multiple child sexual abuse cases in the area. The Council has also sent the Inquiry further information and reports.
The Inquiry on 26 March confirmed that its Truth Project will come to Telford in the coming months.
The Truth Project has been set up for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences in a supportive and confidential setting. By sharing their experiences, victims and survivors make an important contribution to the work of the Inquiry and their experiences will feed into and influence its findings and recommendations.
The Council is very grateful to the Inquiry for bringing the Truth Project to Telford and will work with the Inquiry to help ensure that this is as widely publicised as possible.
We feel it is vital that victims and survivors have their voices heard as soon as possible, the Inquiry’s Truth Project is the best way to ensure this happens.
On March 28 Inquiry secretary John O'Brien said that IICSA had now reviewed reports and other papers sent by the Council which "show that the Council is taking steps to address child sexual exploitation."
IICSA will consider whether it needs further information from the Council as it plans for the next phase of this investigation.
Has the Council asked the Government to hold an inquiry?
On 13 March the Council also asked the Home Office to begin an independent expert inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Telford and repeated this request again on 19 March.
On 3 April, the Home Office’s Deputy Director, Safeguarding Unit, responded saying that IICSA has already stated that it has 13 separate investigations, including one which is looking at institutional response to the sexual exploitation of children by organised networks. IICSA has already stated this this inquiry will cover Telford.
The Home Office say it would not be appropriate to establish a second statutory inquiry to look at issues which are already well within the scope of the existing national inquiry (IICSA).
“It is now for the Inquiry to decide how it takes forward this investigation without interference from Government.”
Why do you say a Council inquiry isn’t the best way to get to the truth?
A council-led inquiry would not give the victims, nor the public, the answers that they rightly seek. Among the reasons are:
• Many of the issues raised in media coverage has focused on failings by “Telford authorities” – in many cases these authorities referred to are not council services.
• A council-led inquiry cannot compel witnesses outside of the Council or former council employees to give evidence
• It can compel council services only, when other bodies such as the police and health services have a very large part to play
• Its remit would be limited to the period since Council has existed from April 1998 – but media reports very clearly state this is an issue that allegedly goes back as far as 40 years ago when the area was covered by Shropshire Council.
• A council that decides an inquiry’s terms of reference can be seen as appointing its own judge and jury.
• Victims could have to give evidence to two different inquiries – a council inquiry, while at the same time the Truth Project will be gathering testimony from victims, survivors and their families, while we also know that IICSA is covering Telford as part of its investigation into the sexual exploitation of children by organised networks.
What are you doing then?
The Council’s Cabinet on 29 March agreed a range of recommendations and recognised that the Truth Project should first complete before IICSA takes any decision on a Telford specific investigation.
The Council met on 10 April and agreed to request that the Cabinet approve the commissioning and implementation of a ‘non-statutory’ Independent Inquiry into all aspects of historical and current instances of Child Sexual Exploitation within the borough and to instruct officers to commission such an Inquiry as soon as practically possible.
Following this, a report will be published w/c 16 April which will look at how a council-commissioned inquiry could be commissioned and run for the cabinet to consider when it meets in public on 19 April.
Aren’t you just trying to cover up this issue?
We have never sought to hide from this issue and we welcome scrutiny. In 2013 partners commissioned an independent review by children’s charity Newstart of Telford’s approach to Child Sexual Exploitation . In 2016 we commissioned a further review by our scrutiny commission of CSE and we invested further in our CATE (Children Abused Through Exploitation) Team and Children’s Safeguarding. In 2016 our services were inspected by OFSTED who concluded our work on Child Sexual Exploitation was “strong” and said: “The local authority has been a champion for tackling this issue”.
Why don’t you admit you made mistakes?
We accept and regret that we made mistakes and historic practices were not effective. But so were services right across the country because awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation was then very different from now. Some incidents referred to in recent media reports pre-date the Council.
Many of the issues raised in the media reflect on partner, as well as some council services, and these issues would be best answered by an inquiry that is not Council commissioned.
We and every council, police force and other partners must continue to work even harder with all the communities across the UK to tackle this vile and evil crime.
If I suspect a child is being sexually abused what should I do?
Tackling CSE is everyone’s business. If you suspect a child is a victim of sexual offences or is being sexually abusing you must report this, even if it is just a suspicion. This Council will act on every report we receive and we continue to support survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation . If anyone has any concerns, they should contact police in the first instance by calling 101, or report to Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP) online or visit Tell Someone
If you have further questions, please leave a comment.
This document will be occassionally be updated as more information becomes available. Last update 10 April 2018