More than £3m is to be invested in a new service which will support survivors of child abuse in Rotherham - while aiming to prevent hundreds of other children becoming victims.
Children’s charity Barnardo’s is to spearhead the new service, which is being paid for with £3.1m of partnership funding.
It will act as a replacement for the highly-regarded Risky Business project, which was the first to warn of Rotherham’s grooming problems before controversially being shut down by the borough council in 2011.
A team of 15 specialist workers will be employed for an initial period of three years, starting from October.
It is intended that the new service will help children who have been sexually exploited to rebuild their lives and support them through the criminal justice system.
The team will also proactively look out for young people who are victims or at risk of being exploited in a bid to prevent crimes from occurring, with education programmes delivered in schools.
The financial package has been put together by Ian Thomas, director of children’s services at Rotherham Council, following former Local Government secretary Eric Pickles pledging £250,000 of Government cash to establish a ‘Risky Business-style service’ in the town earlier this year.
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Funding has been pledged from the Department for Education, with more than £1m coming from the KPMG Foundation, the charity arm of the financial services company.
Mr Thomas said the yet-to-be-named new service will engage with 500 young people a year with the aim of preventing them becoming future victims of grooming.
He said he believes the council is improving and is starting to regain the trust of victims and the wider community in the wake of the grooming scandal.
“We have learnt a lot from what has happened in the past,” he said.
“In the last few months we have seen many improvements. There is a much better response to children and young people that need help.
“There is no way the KPMG Foundation would have invested if they didn’t have confidence we weren’t starting to turn things around.”
Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said: “Barnardo’s has supported sexually exploited children across the UK to rebuild their shattered lives for more than 20 years.
“We bring all of our combined expertise and experience to deliver this specialist service in Rotherham, to help prevent this abuse from inflicting devastating damage on more young lives.”
Councillor Chris Read, leader of Rotherham Council, said:“We know from Professor Jay’s findings and from what victims and survivors have told us that projects like this can make a real difference, reaching out to young people who might be at risk, building trust and supporting those who may become victims.”
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark said: “Victims of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham have been appallingly let down in the past.
“These new services will help victims rebuild their lives and ensure they are supported as they seek justice through the courts against the perpetrators.”
The new initiative has been welcomed by Rotherham MP Sarah Champion.
She said: “I am delighted to hear that Barnardo’s will be investing over £3 million in Rotherham to directly support victims and survivors of child sexual exploitation.
“I have argued for this type of investment since the Jay report a year ago.
“I am pleased to hear that finally progress is being made.
“I have been working closely with the Barnardo’s team since 2013 and I am optimistic that they will be able to deliver the much needed support this town requires.
“In particular, I welcome the news that part of the investment will be dedicated to running a campaign in schools to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.”