Rochdale council has apologised for its ‘significant failings’ ahead of an investigation into child abuse at two institutions.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) is holding public hearings into reports of abuse at Cambridge House hostel for young men and the former Knowl View school.
The abuse and grooming scandal was first revealed in 2011 although there was evidence of criminal activity decades before that date.
Steve Rumbelow, the borough council’s chief executive, has issued an apology for the council’s ‘significant failings’ which he characterised as ‘unforgivable’.
‘The events that took place at Cambridge House and Knowl View and other establishments in Rochdale have cast a long shadow over the town for many years and have undoubtedly caused pain to many people.
‘The council acknowledges that there were significant failings, both in the way that Knowl View School was managed, and in the council’s response to concerns about sexual abuse within and outside the school.
‘That was, frankly, unforgivable. On behalf of Rochdale Borough Council, I would like to apologise sincerely to anyone who was failed by the council during those years.’
Mr Rumbelow added that he could not ‘turn the clock back’, but stressed the council would do work to protect children and young people in the future.
‘As the current chief executive of the council, working with the director of children’s services and partner agencies such as the police, and through the Rochdale Safeguarding Children’s Board, I can make sure that we continue do our level best to safeguard our children and young people now and in the future,’ he said.
He added: ‘The council is doing everything it can to support and work with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in its task and I hope that it can help us fully understand what happened in Rochdale all those years ago.’
However, Richard Scorer, a lawyer representing some of the victims, accused the council of being 'far too late' with their apology.
'Evidence of abuse at both of these homes has been available for decades as has evidence of Rochdale’s culpability and this apology should have come a long time ago,' he said.
Mr Scorer also noted that the apology seemed to be referring to Knowl View and not to Cambridge House.
'It’s not clear this is a comprehensive apology. If you read the detail of it, it seems they're apologising for failings in relation to Knowl View but they dont appear to be apologising in relation to Cambridge House, and their position on Cambridge house has always been it wasn't their home.
'They’re not really clarifying this, so its not clear what the scope of the apology is. The way I read it is it's an apology for one home but not the other.'