Young teenagers continue to be sexually exploited in Rochdale – months after the high profile prosecution of nine Asian men for the exploitation of young girls caused national outrage, a parliamentary committee has been told.
Police and social services failed to protect more than a 100 suspected child victims of sexual exploitation in Rochdale between 2005 and 2011, despite a specialist sexual health team “telling everybody” in children’s services, the Home Affairs Select Committee has been told.
The evidence was given by social worker Sara Rowbotham, team leader of Rochdale’s Crisis Intervention Team and sexual health improvement specialist, as part of the committee’s inquiry into localised children grooming trigged by the Rochdale scandal.
Ms Rowbotham said the failures in Rochdale went back much further than previously reported - to at least to 2004.
She said the failures were down to “the attitudes towards teenagers… these vulnerable young people did not have a voice… they were treated awfully by protective services.”
Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he was “very concerned” to hear that Ms Rowbotham’s team had been cut by half over the past three years. “If there are any repercussions as a result of coming to the committee, please tell us immediately,” said Mr Vaz.
The committee also heard evidence from the former chief executive of Rochdale Council, who insisted that neither he nor the head of children services were aware of any child sexual exploitation until 2010. He first learned about the scandal was when the nine men were arrested in 2010, Roger Ellis told an incredulous committee, but still did not commission any kind of internal inquiry.
Mr Ellis said: “As a chief executive I feel responsible for everything that goes on in my local authority, whether I know about it or not. I feel a deep sense of responsibility, regret and embarrassment but I do not feel personally culpable because…I do not think I could have done anything differently with the information I had.”
He would not disclose his final pay-out from the council this year because of a gagging clause, and when asked if he would consider returning it, he said: “No because I don’t feel any sense of personal responsibility.”