The Home Office is today publishing an independent review of information passed to the Home Office in connection with allegations of child sexual abuse in Rotherham (1998 to 2005).
This independent review was commissioned by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, when she was Home Secretary, in response to suggestions contained in Professor Alexis Jay’s independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham (1997 to 2013). These indicated that in the course of funding and evaluating a Rotherham-based research project, the Home Office may have been passed information about the scale of child abuse in Rotherham and the response of local agencies such as the police and the local authority that should have raised concern. In particular, Professor Jay saw a document believed to have been written by a Home Office project researcher sometime in 2002 which—although the town was not named—contained a description of the extent of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and a series of criticisms regarding the way in which this was being dealt with.
In response to these reports, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, as Home Secretary, announced that the Department would conduct a thorough analysis of all relevant papers covering the period in question to ascertain exactly what information had been made available to the Home Office. She confirmed this work would be independently reviewed by Peter Wanless, chief executive of the NSPCC, and Richard Whittam QC to ensure it had been conducted absolutely properly.
I can confirm that today’s publication includes Mr Wanless and Mr Whittam’s independent review and the internal Home Office review that this assesses.
The Home Office internal review could not locate key documentation produced by the project researcher in Home Office internal records, but notes records were imperfectly operated, meaning it could have been received. However, the review did find that pieces of information questioning the response of statutory services were available to the Home Office, meaning that opportunities to follow up on, or seek further information about matters in Rotherham, including whether the police and other statutory agencies were responding appropriately, existed.
Mr Wanless and Mr Whittam were content that the methodology of this review was sound and that the findings were reasonable. They made one recommendation to the Home Office, in summary, that the Home Office should record allegations of child abuse, what information is sent to the police, and what the result of that referral has been. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Wanless and Mr Whittam for their work on the independent review.
As public servants, we all have an important responsibility to raise and respond effectively to any safeguarding concerns we may encounter in the work we do—not least allegations of child sexual abuse.
The Home Office fully accepts Mr Wanless and Mr Whittam’s review and since 2014, the Department has introduced a recording and referral system for allegations of child abuse to address their precise recommendation.
The Permanent Secretary and I take this issue extremely seriously and the Home Office will continue to promote among all staff the vital importance of using all available information to consider if a child is at risk of abuse.