THE Rotherham child sex abuse scandal was back in the spotlight this week as report author Prof Alexis Jay freshly criticised police and council officials - and Ofsted was forced to apologise for failing to expose the issue.
The child protection expert was the keynote speaker at Child Protection 2015, a conference in Scotland, where she branded the police attitude to victims during the period covered by her report “dismissive.”
It came in the week MPs demanded watchdog Ofsted apologise for failing to expose the scale of the problem, which Prof Jay’s report said saw an estimated 1,400 children sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013.
Prof Jay told the conference at Holyrood in Edinburgh on Wednesday that the police’s attitude to what was being seen in Rotherham was “appalling”, adding that she “didn’t get off to best start”, with opposition from within Rotherham Borough Council.
She said she was “astonished” at claims that CSE issues in Rotherham were not discussed by the council’s ruling Labour group until 2012.
The previous day, Ofsted director Debbie Jones (pictured), was hauled over the coals by the Government’s Communities and Local Government Select Committee over the watchdog’s repeated failure to take steps to tackle the problem.
Ofsted was accused in the Jay Report of giving “false reassurance” with a report in 2006 that said: “It appeared that vulnerable children and young people are kept safe from abuse and exploitation”.
Sheffield MP Clive Betts repeatedly asked Ms Jones whether she would apologise on behalf of Ofsted - and after being asked the question several times, Ms Jones said: “Of course, we’re sorry.”
She said: “We’ve been public about the fact that the reports we did in relation to Rotherham were in parts not good enough.
“Our inspection outcomes frequently reflect the frameworks under which we inspect and the policies of the time.
“Prof Jay recognised our methodologies have changed and improved.”
Ms Jones admitted: “It would be wrong of me to sit here today and say there will not be another Rotherham.
“I hope very much that the systems that have been put in place by my organisation and within local authorities themselves will ensure the spotlight is there, but it would be wrong of me to say it won’t happen.”