A male-dominated culture of bullying at Rotherham Borough Council contributed to the town’s child sex abuse scandal, senior figures have confirmed.
Professor Alexis Jay, whose recent report revealed 1,400 abuse cases were ignored, missed or overlooked in Rotherham, has told The Yorkshire Post that the macho environment made it harder to tackle child abuse at the authority.
Borough council leader Paul Lakin also admitted that bullying and inappropriate behaviour at the council was widespread.
The pair were appearing before a Common’s select committee at which Prof Jay told MPs she believed the 1,400 figure of children abused by mostly Asian men was “a conservative figure”.
She added that despite extensive enquiries her investigation was unable to find copies of four years of minutes and notes from child care services and other committees.
The report author said there were major gaps in the information available as a result of poor record keeping at the council, and that abuse referrals to social workers often went missing.
When council officials were “overwhelmed” with cases some children were simply removed from the list, the committee heard.
Prof Jay said part of the problem was in leadership, and that Rotherham was an “extremely traditional male dominated administration” and this made child sexual issue difficult to solve.
“I don’t think this was an appropriate environment to be discussing an issue as sensitive as child exploitation,” she said.
But she warned against thinking the abuse was unique to the council.
“It’s not unique to Rotherham and anyone who thinks it is is truly misguided,” prof Jay added.
Mr Larkin told the select committee that scrutiny arrangements were not strong enough at a council which at one point had only two or three non-Labour councillors.
Asked what he was doing to address the child care issues raised in the report, Mr Lakin said that while changes were being made, funding remained an issue.
“We have taken a hit on our budget of well over 30%, so any money we can find for this has to come from existing budgets, unless the Government is going to fund this,” he said.
He added that the council would reopen cases, telling The Yorkshire Post: “These young people have been let down and we owe it to them to go through their case files and see if someone can be brought to task.”
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