Ofsted director forced into apology on Rotherham abuse failings

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An Ofsted director has been forced to say sorry to Rotherham child sexual exploitation victims for the service’s failings.

Debbie Jones, Ofsted director with responsibility for inspecting children’s services, only made the apology after being repeatedly pressed to do so by MPs.

Debbie Jones, Ofsted national director for social care .

Debbie Jones, Ofsted national director for social care .

Speaking to the Communities and Local Government Committee this afternoon, Ms Jones initially refused to issue a direct apology for its failures to highlight the scandal during repeated inspections in Rotherham.

She said Ofsted had previously admitted the inspection regime had not been good enough, but that improvements have been made.

However, she was asked repeatedly by Clive Betts, committee chairman and Labour MP for Sheffield South East, to give a ‘straight-forward answer’ and issue an apology.

She eventually said: “We in Ofsted along with everybody else feel that what we have done is not good enough.

Sheffield MP Clive Betts.

Sheffield MP Clive Betts.

“Of course we are sorry. We are sorry along with everybody else that has been in front of this committee.

“The frameworks we had at the time did not focus on child sexual exploitation, not to the degree they do now.

“At the time, child sexual exploitation did not have the focus, wrongly, that it does now.”

The independent Jay report published in August revealed at least 1,400 children in Rotherham were abused between 1997 and 2013.

It said Ofsted inspections of Rotherham’s child protection services took place in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The 2009 report resulted in Rotherham Council being given a notice improve children’s services. The notice was removed in January 2011.

Ms Jones said Ofsted’s 2014 inspection of Rotherham’s children’s services, which gave an ‘inadequate’ rating proved the inspection regime had improved.

She said: “I hope the people of Rotherham were reassured by what we reported very robustly recently.

“Had we inspected on the current framework before, the likelihood is we would have a different outcome. We have raised the bar.”

However, Ms Jones said she could not guarantee future grooming scandals similar to Rotherham will not occur.

She said: “It would be wrong of me to say there won’t be another Rotherham. I couldn’t possibly say that. I hope the systems that have been put in place will ensure the spotlight is there.

“However, it is wrong to say it could never happen.”