The Serious Case Review Overview Report into the sexual exploitation of young people in Rochdale, is a dauntingly long document – 160 pages to be precise. That is too long for most busy professionals to read cover-to-cover and it illustrates the limitations of the SCR as a tool of learning. How much of the report will be lost in the mists of time, simply because there is too much of it, is anybody’s guess.
To be frank I expect most people will content themselves with reading journalistic summaries of what went wrong – which puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the journalists!
But I did manage to find some summarised analytical thinking towards the end of the SCR report contained in two lists that are worthy of note. These are also summarised on the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board website.
The first list (paragraph 4.9.5, page 114) concerns factors that impacted on the quality of practice. The following issues are identified:
- Policy and procedures either not available or poorly understood and poorly implemented at the front line
- An absence of high quality supervision, challenge and management oversight
- Resource pressures and high workload contributing to disorganisation and “a sense of helplessness”
- Policies, culture and attitudes that were unhelpful in working with adolescents
- Performance frameworks focused on quantitative outcomes not on the quality of practice
The second list (paragraph 4.9.7) is found on the following page. It tries to summarise why the problems persisted:
- Longstanding failings in leadership and direction
- Longstanding difficulties at senior level in achieving effective multi-agency working
- Failures by senior managers to focus on routine safeguarding practice, in order to understand how it was delivered
- Lack of focus on the experience of young people and the outcomes and effectiveness of interventions
- Under-resourcing resulting in high workloads
- Decision making influenced by managing budgets to the detriment of practice
It’s all telling stuff. I am tempted to say: “SAY NO MORE – just get on and start making some changes!” But I fear that most senior managers in most agencies in Rochdale are in the grip of a Realpolitik that mandates a lot of what they do. Ineffective hierarchies, budget driven services, focus on quantity not quality, poor understanding of business and professional processes and blindness to the needs and wants of children and young people are part of a national disease, not just a local epidemic in Rochdale.