OPINION: Today is Rotherham’s ground zero - now the real work begins

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A lot can happen in a year. But shamefully, very little happened at all in Rotherham for almost half a year after the Jay Report was published.

It is one of the worst scandals ever seen in South Yorkshire - indeed, across the globe - and we all know the numbers by now. 1,400 girls. 13 years. Countless systematic failures across the board by the very people put in place to protect children, including council leaders, councillors and police.

The victims who were subjected to the most horrific abuse before being systematically let down have rued those wasted months in which we now know very little changed.

Although claims of progress and attitude shifts were made by those in power, we now know it was a false dawn.

It wasn’t until Louise Casey’s follow-up report that the culture of denial began to shift and real change could begin.

The mass resignation of Rotherham Council’s cabinet began that transition, one which continues today as commissioners continue to run the authority deemed incapable of governing itself.

Crucially change is happening - and this is coming from the survivors of the scandal.

They speak at length in The Star today about what has changed, and the masses of work which still needs to be done.

It’s important now that, having picked apart the myriad lessons over the past year - the town is allowed to move on and that those tasked with this momentous undertaking have the confidence to do so.

That can only happen with real evidence of change. Rotherham Council says it is putting children ‘at the heart’ of the town’s recovery and is working towards ‘outstanding authority’ status by 2018.

South Yorkshire Police says the fact it has made almost 450 child sex crime arrests in the past 365 days is proof the force is now making progress.

This is just the start. Ground zero for Rotherham, and whatever happens we need to make sure the victims are listened to, their recommendations are enacted in full and those in power are continually held to account to ensure this horrifying scandal can never be repeated.

We’ll do our best - and that’s all we can ask of police and councillors too. To do their very best to make Rotherham, South Yorkshire and the whole of England a truly safe place for our children.