Public inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation – FAQ
Many people have questions about the Council holding an independent inquiry into Child Sexual exploitation in Telford and Wrekin. Here are answers to questions people are asking.
Has the Council Commissioned a public inquiry?
Yes – and it always has believed an inquiry was needed and has always said so.
On 29 March 2018, the Council’s cabinet agreed the first steps towards an independent inquiry. On 10 April 2018 the Council unanimously backed commissioning its own independent inquiry and on 19 April the Cabinet agreed a four stage process to set this up as quickly as possible. We expect the first stage of this to begin May 2018.
Separately, the national Independent Inquiry in Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) chaired by Prof Alexis Jay has been clear from the time it was set up in 2015 that it will cover Telford as part of its investigation into child sexual abuse by organised networks.
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
When will the Council-commissioned Independent Inquiry begin and how long will it take?
This will be decided by whoever chairs the Independent Inquiry. On 19 April the Council’s cabinet approved setting up a cross-party advisory group which will appoint an independent commissioning body who on the Council’s behalf, will appoint an Independent Commissioning Body, which will then prepare the outlines of an Inquiry Process and appoint an Independent Inquiry Chair. Details such as how the Inquiry is run, evidence it considers and how long it takes will then be decided by the Independent Inquiry Chair.
What can a Council-commissioned Independent Inquiry cover?
A council-commissioned independent Inquiry can compel only council services and employees to co-operate. Co-operation of other groups will be voluntary.
A council-commissioned Inquiry will have access to council records from April 1998 onwards, when Telford & Wrekin Council came into existence.
Are there limitations to a Council-commissioned independent Inquiry?
A council-commissioned Inquiry will have some limitations compared with a statutory inquiry such as IICSA, and it is important that people are aware of these from the outset.
• 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-commissioned inquiry cannot compel witnesses outside of the Council or former council employees to give evidence.
• Its remit would be limited to the period since the Council has existed from April 1998 – however media reports very clearly state this is an issue that goes back as far as 40 years ago when Telford was covered by Shropshire County Council.
• Victims could still have to give evidence to other inquiries as well – the Truth Project will in May and June gather testimony from victims, survivors and their families in Telford. We also know that IICSA is covering Telford as part of its investigation into the sexual exploitation of children by organised networks.
• IICSA will not share testimony given to the Truth Project with a council-commissioned inquiry, so any such victims may need to give evidence again to a Council-commissioned Inquiry.
Why have you changed your position on a council-commissioned inquiry?
The Council has always said that an inquiry is needed and we still believe that the best way to uncover the truth behind child sexual exploitation is to hear from the victims and survivors in Telford is the national IICSA “Jay” inquiry - this has the statutory powers to cover all authorities in Telford and compel organisation and individuals to give evidence.
IICSA will cover Telford and we know that its Truth Project will be in Telford in May and June to hear from the victims and survivors – the people who matter most and who must be heard. However, we now know that IICSA may take some time to cover Telford. This wasn’t clear in 2016.
However, considering the nature of the non-recent cases highlighted by media, the Council unanimously agreed to commission its own independent inquiry. This is what victims are asking for.
However it is very important people are aware that a Council-commissioned independent inquiry is limited and may not be able to provide all the answers people are seeking.
Why didn’t you do anything earlier?
The Council has taken a number of steps to provide assurance around its services and practices to help prevent child sexual exploitation.
In 2012 it commissioned an independent “lessons learned” review by NewStart Networks, which included interviewing victims and survivors as well as people working in a number of other organisations and agencies. Child Abuse through Sexual Exploitation Learning (2008-2013) was published in October 2013. LINK
In November 2014, the Council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee began a review of multiagency working against child sexual exploitation. This was published in May 2016 and made 38 recommendations which were all accepted and have been enacted.
In 2016, a team of 7 OFSTED inspectors looked at the Council’s safeguarding services for four weeks. They concluded the Council’s work on child sexual exploitation was “strong” and said: “The local authority has been a champion for tackling this issue”.
What is the national Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) 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 Inquiry on 26 March confirmed that its Truth Project will come to Telford in May and June 2018.
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 because it is vital that victims and survivors have their voices heard as soon as possible. The Council is working with the Inquiry to help ensure that the Truth Project is publicised as widely as possible.
More details about the Truth Project
Why won’t the Home Office 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 said 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.”
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 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”.
It is worth adding that in 2012, West Mercia Police’s Operation Chalice investigation into an organised grooming gang in Telford and Wrekin resulted in the conviction of seven men, who were jailed for a total of 49 years. This case was one of the very first in the UK to prosecute perpetrators of child sexual exploitation and preceded a number of similar cases elsewhere in the country, notably in Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford.
Why don’t you admit you made mistakes?
We accept and regret that we made mistakes and non-recent practices were not effective. But so were services right across the country because awareness and perception 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 across the country 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 Child Sexual Exploitation 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 occasionally be updated as more information becomes available. Last update 27 April 2018