It’s headline news: Should Shaun Wright stand down?

Important? Yes. But surely there are more important issues in this terrible story of violence, abuse and gross negligence by so many agencies.

Of course Mr Wright, as South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, must take responsibility for his failings. But is his resignation really going to make a huge difference to the victims? Also is it going to stop this happening again?

For years, the child protection system has recognized the need for agencies to work together to protect vulnerable children. The Government’s Every Child Matters programme in 2002, following the Victoria Climbie Inquiry (where a little girl died following multi-agency failings) set up Local Children Safeguarding Boards. The idea was that representatives from health, social care, education etc would meet and collaborate to ensure a more joined-up approach to protecting children.

Yet still it goes on. Agencies do not talk to each other and more importantly, do not seem to listen to young people. Certainly in Rotherham, it seems the young girls and women were blatantly ignored.

I wonder if the problem is tied up with the victims, that is, the teenage girls who are particularly vulnerable to this type of targeted grooming. They may not be a group whom some find easy to help. They may be hard to engage with. They may have poor attendance in school or have dropped out altogether. They may be highly evasive and easily led because of difficult backgrounds and limited positive relationships. It is frightening yet not difficult to imagine that some agencies could tick their own responsibility box by adopting the I can’t help you if you won’t help yourself attitude.

Although the debate around Shaun Wright’s position is useful in highlighting the extent of the failings in our system, there needs to be a big change in attitudes to young people. We need to make sure that all young people are listened to. Jimmy Saville got away with his crimes for so long because it was felt by so many victims that they would never be believed. If the agencies had listened to and acted upon the complaints of the girls in Rotherham, there’s a good chance that the pathetic number of prosecutions (9 out of 1400 victims) could have increased therefore protecting others at risk.

Lessons need to be learned from Rotherham. Young people need to be listened to and the systems set up to protect them need to be used. Otherwise we will just all be reacting to the next scandal. Wasting so much energy on scapegoating may well be counter productive. That energy could be much better used in supporting the current victims and protecting those teenage girls who could be at risk of becoming future victims.

Profile photo of Liz Fisher Frank About Liz Fisher Frank
Liz Fisher-Frank is a solicitor, writer and children’s rights campaigner. She set up and ran the Lawyers for Young People project. Liz has considerable experience in working with young people in the care system - most recently as head of the legal unit at the Children’s Society - and that experience has formed the basis of her efforts to increase awareness of the problems some children do face. Liz writes about the barriers children and young people face in accessing the law. She also writes fiction for young adults.

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2 Comments

  • rosemarycantwell August 29, 2014 3:00 pm

    Dear Ms Frank
    I thank you for your illuminating article. I feel that a wider net should be thrown on to the following agencies perhaps:

    1] Ofsted – what did they find?

    2] NHS – what did they find?

    3] Schools of the children – what did they find?

    4] lawyers – what did they find?

    5] Families of the children – what did they find?

    6] IPCC – surely they should have inspected the police force in question?

    7] HMIC – what did they find before 2014?

    8] The Cabinet – what did they get informed? What did they find?

    9] Parliament – what did they know or get informed? What did they find or individual MPs?

    10] What did successive Prime Ministers get informed? What did they know? What did they do?

    11] What did the local community watch know and do?

    12] What did anyone do to be proactive in the protection of the children?

    13] What did the Safeguarding PARTNERSHIP bodies do to protect the children from all and any abuse at all?

    When the answers are provided then we might be able to stop abuse.

    Rosemary

  • osman osman May 10, 2015 10:14 pm

    My son had got IPP and was told he wasn’t allowed back in to the UK but was shipped back to Holland since he has a Dutch Nationality. Since we have heard that the IPP has finished he tried returning back to the UK to come and see his dad who is ill but when trying to enter the UK he got put into custody and now they are threating to put him back in prison and he has to finish his sentence which he has already finished and we as his family are all worried about this. He has done his sentence and was just trying to come and visit his family in the UK and as we aware the IPP has finished so what is it that they are charging him with if anyone that has been in the same position please reply back to me

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