William Eichler 20 June 2022

Child sexual exploitation inquiry clears council of cover up

Child sexual exploitation inquiry clears council of cover up image
Image: Mama Belle and the kids/Shutterstock.com.

An independent inquiry into historic child sexual exploitation in Oldham has found that there were serious failings in the handling of some cases but no cover up by the council.

The inquiry was launched after allegations were made on social media about a threat to children in Oldham from a local shisha establishment, children’s homes, and a taxi service between 2011 and 2014.

The social media rumours also alleged that senior managers or councillors at Oldham Council had covered up the threat of child sexual exploitation.

The inquiry, which examined a sample of 10 complex cases of young people vulnerable to sexual exploitation, found no evidence of any cover up by the council or the police.

The investigation even concluded that Oldham Council was ‘consistently attempting to develop best practice in addressing the threat of child sexual exploitation.’

However, it did find that there were serious failings with how the local authority approached exploitation cases.

According to the final report, the council’s ‘commendable strategic approaches did not always translate into the appropriate level of safeguarding for young people at risk of child sexual exploitation.’

What the inquiry describes as a ‘structural flaw’ in the council’s approach meant that mainstream childcare social work teams – rather than specialist teams – were carrying out the assessments, safeguarding and planning.

The report notes that by 2015 the council’s ‘assessment and planning for children at risk of exploitation had significantly improved.’

Leader of Oldham Council, Amanda Chadderton, said: ‘We fully accept the findings of this independent report.

‘It highlights clear failings, where our services at the time were not good enough to protect vulnerable young people suffering the most awful abuse. For that I am deeply sorry. I can never fully understand what those girls went through, and I also know that an apology now will never make up for what happened in the past.

‘I do hope, however, to offer some reassurance that, as a Council, we haven’t stood still since the time period the review refers to.

‘We have learned from reports carried out in other towns and cities across the country, and from changes in national guidance, and have changed the way we do things as a result. The way we work has already moved on immeasurably.

‘That said, we are not complacent. We can and will improve further, wherever we need to.’

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