Wednesday 4 February 2015

On Rotherham

Community cohesion is a sensitive issue. That is an irrefutable fact. Barging in with clumsy assumptions about the perpetrators could have caused greater alienation within the Muslim communities of Rotherham - so these are matters that require an element of supervision and a multi-agency strategy for handling it in the least divisive way.

It turns out that the management passed the buck, and showed no initiative or moral courage and instead buried the problem - and there was no over all strategy for dealing with it - nor any cohesion between departments in what should have been a multi-agency approach.

If you have plod and junior social services throwing their weight around like a bull in a china shop, on the basis of unfounded assumptions, without proper study, you get wrongful arrests, accusations of racism, reduced cooperation with the police (essential for tackling extremism) and possibly riots. So the authorities can't not treat it delicately. In this case they chose not to act at all rather than attempt to tackle it. So what we're looking at is basic denialism through incompetence, laziness and gross misconduct.

If you don't take a holistic view and reject all the other circumstances, you'll have this happen again because you didn't tackle the inherent structural problems - not least lack of oversight and scrutiny. To simply point the finger and blame political correctness and the "liberal establishment" is to ignore what is a systemic failure.

This is essentially grooming, trafficking and prostitution of girls abandoned by their parents and wider society. The police can round them up and take them home, but if the mums don't give a fig, there's really not much they can do. Especially if the social services can't handle the scale of it and especially if there's no central strategy to deal with a multifaceted problem like this - where so much is difficult to prove. Some of these girls were at the age of consent or close to it, and to some extent simply can't be controlled.

There's a governance aspect, there's a culture aspect, there's a welfare aspect, an immigration aspect and there's an economic aspect. There's money in trading these girls. It's part of the night time economy. You can't tackle the demand, the suppliers are difficult to catch and as for the product - that's a whole set of complications in itself. There is a whole patchwork of interwoven issues that ought to inform a broader overall policy which councils don't always have the full picture of, or the understanding to deal with it. Thus it is a national failure as much as that of the council.

What was missing was the political will, leadership and effective response from a number of agencies, all of whom responded in the usual way by buck-passing, which is not unique to this case - and in fact shows more similarities with the NHS Staffordshire and Baby P scandal - which tells you this is a problem with public sector institutions, the systems of accountability and the complaints mechanism. It's an intellectual dereliction not to give weight to these considerations - and by not doing so, you're essentially pointing fingers for the purposes of blame and political advantage - rather than any genuine interest in understanding and resolving these issues.

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