There are painful lessons from the Rochdale sex abuse scandal for those of us from Rochdale who are concerned about the welfare of looked-after children or good community relations.
We need to have a full and frank discussion, unafraid of the strictures of the politically correct brigade or the far right.
While it is definitely not a religious issue the attitude of a significant percentage of men from a South Asian background towards women is a matter of serious concern that needs addressing.
I say women in general, rather than an attitude to white women in particular, because my case load regularly dealt with abductions of children, women being thrown out of a failed arranged marriage and left destitute and in one case the firebombing of a women’s flat because she would not give up her children.
Only this week in Rochdale we’ve had the murder of pregnant Asian women who was having an affair with a married Asian man. He has been arrested.
It manifests itself in the so called “honour killings”.
Pakistan itself is one of the few countries that have not signed the Geneva Convention on the Rights of the Child.
There is, however, an agreement between Pakistan and the UK to respect the decisions of each other’s family courts. An agreement, as I learnt in the Asma Akthar case, that is conveniently ignored by Pakistan’s judges when it suits.
Nor can the role of the authorities be ignored. The 15 year old girl at the centre of the case was in the care of Essex CC and had been placed in a private care home in Rochdale run by a company called Green Corns.
This company has over 15 such homes in the Rochdale area and employs unqualified staff to run the homes.
During my time as MP for Rochdale I dealt with many complaints from local residents concerned about the operation of children’s homes operating from private houses.
Local authorities are powerless to intervene as they did not need planning permission and Ofsted has clearly failed in its role of regulating these homes.
I raised concerns about the quality and qualifications of the staff employed by the company both in several meetings with company executives and with the then Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes.
Like the earlier elderly care home abuses we need to see rigorous minimum standards strictly enforced by the regulator.
Finally, we need to look seriously at the operation of our Children’s Safeguarding Boards.
On what planet is it OK for a Local Authority to send a child to a care home two or three hundred miles away?
Can they believe that a hard pressed social worker in Camden will be able to be in touch with what’s happening on the ground hundreds of miles away?
I recall meeting the Chair of the Rochdale Magistrates bench who was forced to detain in custody a child from Cornwall for their own safety – the workers at the home could not control the child.
Or the two care workers from Rotherham delivering a boy from his care home in Rochdale to a school in Buxton and wondering why he was able to abscond so easily.
Our care system is expensive and not fit for purpose.
The Children’s Commissioner needs to look at these issues and report back to Michael Gove and Sarah Teather with her recommendations incorporated into the forthcoming Children and Families Bill.
Numbers of children in care are rising rapidly; however the capacity of the system to look after these children must be seriously questioned.
The Rochdale Sex Abuse Scandal has shed a light on a murky area. Government must now extinguish these practices or it will be to our external shame.
* Paul Rowen is the former MP for Rochdale