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‘Harrowing’ child sex abuse scandal revealed as council makes £123m bid to save social services

‘Harrowing’ child sex abuse scandal revealed as council makes £123m bid to save social services

🕔24.Nov 2014

Birmingham has asked the Department for Education for a £123 million emergency grant to turn around failing children’s social services.

The size of the request is in line with a recommendation from Lord Norman Warner, the Government-appointed commissioner overseeing a rescue plan for the beleaguered department.

Labour council leaders are hoping that Ministers will make Birmingham a special case, as happened when a similar bid for cash was submitted recently by Doncaster Council.

But Doncaster, unlike Birmingham, had its children’s social services transferred to an independent trust before additional Government funding was forthcoming.

The scale of Birmingham’s bid was revealed by cabinet member Brigid Jones, who insisted that £123 million, paid over the next three years, would enable the council to transform children’s social care and safeguarding services from an ‘inadequate’ Ofsted rating to ‘good’.

Her comments came at a media briefing to publicise an inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Birmingham. Cllr Jones said the scale of abuse uncovered by a scrutiny committee would inevitably mean spending more money to make sure that vulnerable children were safe.

The committee’s report condemned “harrowing and horrific” examples of sexual abuse by adults against children.

In September this year the council knew of 83 children who were being sexually exploited or were thought to be at risk of sexual exploitation. Education scrutiny committee chair Anita Ward admitted the true scale of abuse in Birmingham was likely to be far greater.

About three-quarters of the 83 are aged between 14 and 16. Forty are from black and minority ethnic groups and 39 are white British.

Cllr Ward rejected any suggestion that most incidents involved Asian men grooming white girls. White men and women were also involved, although one of the worst cases reported involved Asian men abusing Asian girls.

Typically, teenage girls “of low self-esteem” were lured into sex with the offer of gifts, sometimes drugs or alcohol, but often simply a bag of sweets or chips, Cllr Ward added.

She called for action to tackle head on the widespread perception that a conspiracy of enables “offenders to get away with it” and for knowledge about child sexual exploitation to be “shouted about across the city”.

The report warned of particular concern over the use of Birmingham hotels as venues where children are taken to be sexually abused. Websites featuring guest reviews were monitored and revealed a variety of complaints including men hanging around at hotel entrances, pornography and condoms left in rooms, screaming coming from some rooms, teenagers running about and “even a room appearing to be the local youth club”.

Scrutiny committee recommendations urging a multi-agency campaign against child sexual exploitation including compulsory safeguarding training for all councillors have been accepted by the council’s cabinet.

Cllr Ward said: “Scrutiny committee reports are often written and then left to gather dust. We will make sure our recommendations are acted upon.”

The committee’s findings concluded: “The aim has to be to make Birmingham a city where offenders know they cannot freely operate. To achieve this requires each and every one of the partners in the city to work together and share intelligence and to use this to disrupt and prosecute.”

Last week Birmingham council became the first local authority to use civil injunctions to ban six men from making contact with young girls.

High Court judge Mr Justice Keehan allowed the names of the six to be revealed. They are Mohammed Anjam, 31, Omar Ahmed, 27, Mohammed Javed, 34, Alam Shah, 37, Sajid Hussain, 40, and Naseem Khan, 29.

The injunctions came after social workers and police raised concerns about the welfare of a vulnerable 17-year-old girl who is in the care of the council.

Peter Hay, strategic director of people at Birmingham council, said: “We’re still a council with our struggles with safeguarding children. That’s well known.

“The importance and ground-breaking nature of what we’ve done here is that for the first time those that are sexually exploiting children cannot rely on their silence.

“We can find other ways of bringing it… to attention and dealing with the men concerned than just the child who has all those vulnerabilities whose silence has been bought in by other things such as drink or alcohol.”

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