Posted on 30/01/2018 by
Rotherham council’s children’s services have “transformed” since the local authority was hit by a child sexual exploitation scandal, an Ofsted report has found.
An inspection in 2014 identified “widespread and serious failures” of vulnerable children, while another inquiry found at least 1,400 children had been subject to sexual exploitation in the town.
On Monday, a report by Ofsted said the “quality and impact of services for children are transformed” following a re-inspection in November.
Inspectors did, however, find that the council’s support for children in care required improvement.
“Risks to children are recognised early and responded to, ensuring their safety,” the watchdog said. “The corporate response and associated change in the quality of children’s services has been impressive.”
The report comes four years after revelations about widespread sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham sparked a national outcry, culminating in the Alexis Jay report.
That report found there had been widespread exploitation of children in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 and triggered the resignation of the council’s leader, Roger Stone.
Ian Thomas, Rotherham council’s head of children’s services, welcomed the latest report.
“The Ofsted report confirms that services for looked-after children have improved albeit not at the same pace of the other service areas. This is because improvement from such a low base is not a linear process,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Our overall grade of ‘good’ with ‘outstanding’ for care-leavers gives us the confidence that the quality of the services for children looked-after will be as strong as the other areas in a short space of time.”
Thomas, who was brought in to turn around the scandal-hit authority, denied there was still a “big problem” with its care for children that Ofsted found “requires improvement”.
He said: “I don’t agree there’s a big problem at all – given where we are good with outstanding features should give everybody the confidence that the work we’re doing now for our children in the care system will end up being good as the rest of the service is.”
Thomas also confirmed that a majority – 75% – of the council’s children’s services staff were there at the time of the child sexual exploitation scandal. He described them as “a great set of people who wanted to do the right thing but were not give the capacity to do so or the training to do so”.
In its latest assessment, Ofsted said there was now a “robust response” to risk and a multi-agency team was able to focus on complex abuse work and identify and support children at risk of sexual exploitation.
The children’s commissioner at Rotherham council, Patricia Bradwell, told the BBC: “The council and its partners have worked very hard to change outcomes for children, young people and families and I am delighted that this hard work has been recognised in this way.”
Education Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “I’m delighted to see the progress that has been made at Rotherham’s children’s social care, resulting in it being rated ‘good’ by Ofsted.”