At January’s meeting of Oldham’s full council, Cllr Sean Fielding gave an update on the independent review into historic safeguarding practices. His statement was as follows:
Since allegations of malpractice around historic child sexual exploitation cases first surfaced, we have taken them seriously. It is important that residents feel assured that the Council and its partners are doing everything possible to keep children safe.
For that reason I, along with Henri Giller, the chair of the Safeguarding Partnership for Oldham, wrote to Mayor Andy Burnham requesting that an independent review into historic safeguarding in Oldham take place as part of a major piece of work looking to improve safeguarding across Greater Manchester. I’m now providing an update to councillors and the public on progress.
Mayor Burnham also holds the role of Police and Crime Commissioner. In September 2017 he launched an independent assurance exercise to consider how Greater Manchester does and should respond to child sexual exploitation.
Using the same methodology and approach for the Oldham review makes it possible to utilise the same team, expertise and processes. This will make the Oldham review as effective and thorough as possible.
As for the first stage of the Greater Manchester review into historical CSE, the Oldham workstream will be led by Malcolm Newsam CBE and Gary Ridgway. Malcolm and Gary will bring their huge experience in children’s social care and policing to the work, and I can assure residents that they will have the full cooperation of the council for anything they require. Malcolm and Gary will bring a level of knowledge, true independence and expertise that is unsurpassable, which includes looking at cases in other places like Rotherham and Manchester.
The terms of reference for the review, which set out its scope, methodology, governance and resourcing, will be confirmed next week. These will be publicly available. Timelines for reporting will be determined by the review team themselves, to make sure their report is conducted thoroughly, while also recognising the need for public clarity as soon as possible in relation to historic allegations.
For the review team to conduct their work effectively it is absolutely vital that anyone with evidence of historic failings presents this for consideration. As we have previously said, if anybody has evidence of offences, recent or historic, or concerns about the safety of an individual or group of individuals, please contact Oldham’s multi-agency safeguarding hub in the first instance. If the reviewers do not have full information our ability to learn lessons from the past is restricted, and may put young people at risk.
Child sexual exploitation is abhorrent. It would be naïve to think that cases of child sexual exploitation don’t take place, and the council and our partners must be equipped to prevent and detect it in all its forms. Our systems and services are relied upon by young people to keep them safe. I am grateful to the survivors who have spoken about their experiences, and am confident that if the council or our partners could have done more to protect or support them and others that Malcolm and Gary will identify this.