Thursday, 28 August 2014


There seems little doubt that a primary cause of the lack of appropriate response by services to the disgraceful events in Rotherham was a deep seated failure to listen to and empathise with children and young people. In that regard Rotherham embodies many of the features of the similar, if smaller-scale, scandals in Rochdale and Oxford.

What struck me most in reading the report of the enquiry into Rotherham was the amount of inspection, audit and scrutiny that appears to have taken place over the period in which the widespread sexual exploitation was occurring. To be sure not all the inspection/audit/scrutiny reports were without criticism but the failings they identified were minor compared to the gross failure of systems that was taking place and which remained undetected.

That seems to me to illustrate what poor instruments inspections and the like are when it comes to driving quality. I expect that in Rotherham on balance most of the boxes got ticked, even if from time to time one didn't. But inspectors apparently saw nothing of the monumental inability to meet the needs of some of the town's most vulnerable children.

For me the moral of this tragic story is that the control/compliance culture in which statutory children's services operate in Great Britain is not a safe culture and it does not result in quality services. If we are ever to have safe services that meet children's needs for protection and care, then we need to re-think things by empowering those who actually deliver the services to research the causes of failure and to make improvements. And we need to have services which are driven by listening to, and acting on, the perceptions and insights of children and young people. not faceless bureaucrats.