Consultation to start on ‘neglect’ of authority figures who ignored Rotherham abuse

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A consultation asking the public about punishments for those who ignored child abuse in Rotherham is set to begin later this year.

Councillors and police in Rotherham who ignored or failed to report child abuse could be dismissed or disqualified if Parliament does decide to extend ‘wilful neglect’ to cover children’s social care, depending on the outcome of a consultation, a new Government report has said.

Last year, the Government committed to hold a 12-week consultation on the mandatory reporting of abuse of vulnerable children.

In a new Department for Communities and Local Goverment report, the Government says it will hear from ‘a wide range of professionals, experts, communities, non-governmental organisations and parliamentarians’ before taking action.

The report said: “The consultation will seek views on sanctions for failure to take action on child abuse or neglect where it is a professional responsibility to do so, including the option of extending the crime of ‘wilful neglect’ to cover children’s social care and education.

“Wilful neglect would impose criminal sanctions for those who are found guilty of deliberate, wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment of children.

“It would cover inaction, concealment and/or deliberate cover-ups and would ensure that those responsible for the very worst failures in care can be held accountable.”

The report also went on to review the catalogue of failures at Rotherham Council both at the time of the Jay Report and since, which led the government to send commissioners to run the authority.

It says that the council has since been moving in the right direction.

It said: “Rapid and sustainable improvements have been required to form the basis for the improvement plan which the council submitted on May 26. The Government understands that the commissioners have ensured that the whole scrutiny system has been overhauled, with new terms of reference and a standing panel to look at responses to child sexual exploitation across all agencies.”

The report also announced new plans for whistle-blowing on child abuse at a national level.

It said: “The Government will create a new national single point of contact for child abuse related whistleblowing reports to ensure that all professionals can raise concerns about how their organisation is protecting children from the risk of abuse.

“This new single point of contact will be able to spot patterns of failure across the country and link to the new joint area inspections where there are concerns.”

The government’s report also said that the Secretary of State was ‘justified’ in appointing commissioners to take over Rotherham Council earlier this year.

It said: “In our view, faced with the denial of the evidence in the Jay Report and the findings in the Casey Report, we cannot see that there was any reasonable prospect of Rotherham itself putting its own house in order.

“We conclude that the Secretary of State was justified in appointing commissioners to take over the executive functions of Rotherham Council.”

It also said that the commissioners should consider returning the council to ‘democratic control’ in future.

It added: “We consider that the Improvement Board, which has been in place and operating since September 2014, has built up knowledge and expertise which should be of benefit in ensuring a smooth and effective return to local democratic control in Rotherham.

“We recommend that the commissioners now in place in Rotherham consider using the Improvement Board to facilitate this process.”