We were all shocked at the appalling revelations last week about the wide-scale sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham over many years.
Prof Alexis Jay OBE’s report makes for sobering reading. My heart goes out to those children and young people who were abused.
All child abuse is unacceptable.
It is the role of the council, police and other authorities to do all they can to protect children, particularly those directly in their care or where concerns are raised.
No public authority can guarantee the safety of all children, but they should act as quickly and effectively as possible when information becomes available to them.
There were many significant failures in Rotherham and I welcome the actions announced since the report was published, including the decision by South Yorkshire Police to commission an independent investigation into its handling of child sexual exploitation.
We must do all we can to ensure children in South Yorkshire are kept as safe as possible. Organisations and, where appropriate, individuals should take responsibility and be held to account for their actions.
My thoughts are with the children and families in Rotherham who have been affected, but I have also instigated enquiries to ensure that any implications for Doncaster are clearly understood.
Five years ago, Doncaster’s own failure to protect children was laid bare. The impact of those failings will continue to live with us for some time, including the loss of confidence in public services local people felt.
We can only change that by making continuous, demonstrable improvements in services.
That is what we are doing and I would like to reassure residents that significant progress has been made in Doncaster when it comes to protecting children.
We will soon launch our new independent children’s trust, developed with the Government.
There have been many practical actions taken to improve our services, including those which deal with child sexual exploitation.
Sexual abuse is a national issue and one we are fully aware of. As part of our improvements, this year we set up a dedicated team of social workers and police officers with health professionals, education and Barnardo’s workers to deal with abuse and exploitation.
Where it takes place, abuse often occurs within families. The team works to investigate crimes, deal with offenders, support victims and family members and help prevent further children being subjected to this cruel mistreatment.
My cabinet and I, councillors and staff are determined to continue improvements that have been made. We must remain vigilant. More must be done.
If you have concerns about a child or young person, please take action. Do not to wait for someone else to pick up the phone. Call 01302 737 777 or, in an emergency, call the police.
We want everyone to say something if they see something. It is better to be safe than sorry.
* Ros Jones, elected mayor of Doncaster