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Labour urges action on child abuse inquiry

September 5, 2014 · 


The government must act “urgently” to get its inquiry into child sex abuse moving following thescandal in Rotherham, Labour has appealed.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “It is two years since we called for it, two months since the home secretary agreed to it, but we still have no chair and no terms of reference despite the seriousness of this issue.”

An independent inquiry to investigate the way public bodies handled historical child sex abuse allegations was announced by the government on 7 July. However, it was delayed when Baroness Butler-Sloss stood down as its chair in July, and a replacement is yet to be announced.

Ms Cooper said the scale of abuse revealed in Rotherham showed child sex abuse is not “historic, this is happening today, that is why we need the overarching inquiry in place”. She also called for a change in the law to introduce mandatory reporting of child sex abuse.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she hoped to be in a position to announce the new chair of the inquiry “very soon”, as she responded to Ms Cooper’s remarks on 2 September 2014.

“We have been taking our time because of the concern that was expressed at the time of making sure that the individual who does this is somebody who people can, throughout the communities concerned, have confidence in,” she added.

‘No excuse’Ms Cooper tabled an urgent question in response to a report which found at least 1,400 children were subjected to appalling sexual exploitation – mainly by men of Pakistani heritage – in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.

Ms Cooper warned that this was not a one-off and told MPs “this is about every town and city in the country, it is about every community”.

“Time and again, it is the same problems – children not being listened to, victims treated as thought they were responsible for the crimes against them and institutions that just looked the other way.”

Mrs May said the report’s findings make for “shocking” reading and that the failure of local authorities to protect the girls was “a complete dereliction of duty”.

She insisted the government will learn the lessons from the report, and added that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was “minded to use his powers” to commission an independent inspection of Rotherham Council.

The inquiry team noted fears among council staff of being labelled “racist” if they focused on victims’ descriptions of the majority of abusers as “Asian” men.

Mrs May said there was “no excuse” for failing to protect vulnerable children and punish sex offenders.

“I am clear that cultural concerns, both the fear of being seen as racist, and the frankly disdainful attitude to some of our most vulnerable children must never stand in the way of child protection,” she told MPs.

Liberal Democrat John Hemming said the report found that some girls who had been taken into care for their protection “were actually worse protected in care”.

He urged the government to support his private member’s bill which he said will ensure children in care “can be protected from maltreatment in the care system”.


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