A £143 MILLION national inquiry into grooming gangs has been called a “self-serving PR exercise” by MP Sarah Champion, who is a core participant in the research.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) was set up in 2014 to examine how the country’s institutions handled their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse.
The eight-year inquiry — headed by Prof Alexis Jay, who revealed 1,400 children had been abused in Rotherham — was set up in the wake of high profile instances of non-recent child sexual abuse and because the Government had grave concerns that some organisations were continuing to fail to protect children.
Last year, the IICSA announced it would carry out research into child sexual exploitation by organised networks in the wake of Rotherham’s abuse scandal as part of its 13 strands of investigation.
But ahead of its two-week public hearing into grooming gangs drawing to a close today, Ms Champion told the Advertiser she was “really disappointed” in its research.
“All of the past inquiries they have done have been looking back at what went wrong so they don’t happen again,” she said.
“So they did one on care homes in Nottinghamshire and the Church of England. They have gone back quite forensically and figured out what went wrong.”
Ms Champion said she had assumed the inquiry into grooming gangs would have taken the same approach — but added: “For some bizarre reason they have taken six regions that are not particularly known for organised criminal gangs and asked how they are dealing with CSE.”
The inquiry focused on St Helens, Tower Hamlets, Swansea, Durham, Bristol and Warwickshire.
The inquiry found that in Durham there was still a lot of victim blaming language being used, a lack of sharing information and scant data being collected.
However, many of the local authorities and police forces involved had told the inquiry that CSE was not an issue in their area.
“The whole thing has been odd,” she said. “And what frustrates me most is Rotherham has learned some horrific lessons, that really have been learned on the decimation of lives of individuals and families in our town.
“But not to have that learning in the public domain where it can benefit other areas seems a missed opportunity and I don’t know what can come out of the report.”
The MP said the money spent on the report would have been better spent on survivors.
She said: “I wanted once and for all for failings that keep on happening to be identified and addressed and prevented in the future.”
But Ms Champion said there had been no focus on perpetrators and why they become abusers.
She added: “People will say: ‘What’s the point in it all?’ And that’s how I’m feeling now.
“It feels like a self-serving PR exercise to say: ‘We have covered it’.”
The report’s recommendations into this strand of the investigation are expected to be made public around Easter. The final report is expected to be published in 2022.