Opinion: Lessons from the Rochdale sex abuse scandal

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

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  • Paul Rowen…………………….We need to have a full and frank discussion, unafraid of the strictures of the politically correct brigade or the far right………………

    I agree. However, I’d be interested in why there was no ‘National coverage’ of the trial until after the verdict. Why was it a ‘special case” obviously not to prevent the far right making it an issue as they were there in force.
    If justice is blind all such cases should be treated the same.

  • The case was reported nationally prior to the verdict but obviously much of the detail cannot be published until after the trial and the men are proven guilty. Also the police are still investigating and up to 50 other men could be involved.
    There was also daily coverage on the BBC regional news.

  • ……………………………………………..obviously much of the detail cannot be published until after the trial and the men are proven guilty…………………

    Why? The details of charges are always reported, at the start of trial, and the day’s proceedings are reported in all other Rape/Murder cases. I am an avid listener of Radio 4 and never heard a ‘peep’. Perhaps you might indicate in which ‘National Media’ outlets it was reported.

  • “I agree. However, I’d be interested in why there was no ‘National coverage’ of the trial until after the verdict. Why was it a ‘special case” obviously not to prevent the far right making it an issue as they were there in force.”

    I saw plenty of coverage:

    There were several reports on Radio 5 while the trial was on going.

    Still lets not let that get in the way of a nice conspiracy theory.

  • Hywel11th May ’12 – 4:03pm………..I saw plenty of coverage…………:
    The fact that all your examples are :manchester rather gives the clue to it’s coverage. And,’Wow’, couple of Radio 5 mentions.
    Still lets not let that detract from ‘National Coverage’.

    Simon McGrath,I have read several reports about such gangs and, if memory serves, a local Labour MP was complaining about the lack ofpolice action in such cases.

  • If were going to be un PC about this why make reference to these criminals being south east Asians but not anything else. Were any of them sikhs or Hindus, or atheists or Christians, We don have a big problem with the catholic church and child abuse. And why for that matter are we suddenly talking about attitudes to “women” when the victims in this case were children.

  • I meant we dot have a problem with talking about the catholic church and child abuse.

  • @Jason – not uncommon with trial reports eg see this one today:

    R5 had lots of analysis of this issue post verdict including interviews with people in Rochdale. For obvious reasons there won’t be much in the way of commentary whilst the trial is in progress

  • Hywel11th May ’12 – 10:19pm.
    I’m not sure what point you are making? The ‘clip’ gives a link to last november when the trial started. Such a case is, hardly, of national interest whilst the ‘organised’, ‘sytematic’ rape of children over a period of years is.

  • Richard Dean 12th May '12 - 3:03pm

    PC is not its caricature. It’s not meant to prevent people communicating truth, quite the contrary, it’s supposed to help. Different people attach different meanings and emotions to words, and sometimes two different cultures can understand a sentence to mean exact opposites. For instance, what does “most muggers are green” mean? Some interpret it to mean that green people are mostly muggers. PC is an attempt to find a language that avoids unintended meanings or emotions and actually communicates what is intended.

    Many Pakistanis abhor these actions as much as any other culture or nationality. The actions are perhaps partly the unintended consequences of attempts to impose disciplne. Civilization is a work in progress, and Western consumer-driven approaches are not necessarily the last word. The fact that Pakistan hasn’t signed some Western-crafted agreement doesn’t mean that Pakistanis are bad people. Isn’t there an African convention of the rights of the child that is different from the UN one? It doesn’t mean African children are unloved.

    The fact that the care system isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it isn’t fit for purpose. The fact means the system needs improvement – probably money, training, organization, access, and motivation. It needs to look through the PC caricatures at the real facts, as some in the Rochdale care system are indeed doing, Sure Paul Rowen you are trying to do this too, but being non-PC may actually end up damaging this cause, not helping it.

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