Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Complex failure

No-one can have failed to have been shocked by the revelations about the extent of child sexual abuse over the last few months.

I chair the all-party Communities and Local Government Committee in the House of Commons. Our job is to scrutinise and report on the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), its agencies and local government.

We have a particular interest in reviewing policy – formulation and implementation – taking and analysing the evidence on what works and what doesn’t, and then drawing conclusions and making recommendations for improvement.

It is in that context that we have been taking evidence on the local government aspects of the failure to protect so many children. We have just published our first report[1]. We heard alarming evidence that the organised child sexual exploitation at Rotherham is prevalent across England. Rotherham is not an outlier.

In leadership, governance and accountability terms, what most concerned us was that it was the press which stimulated action in Rotherham, not the Council’s own system of challenge or scrutiny, nor external inspections. Therefore, we were clear that it is essential that councils across the country are busily reviewing whether their own scrutiny, governance, and leadership is fit and ready to identify and combat child sexual exploitation in their communities.

Serious questions also need to be asked of Ofsted. Repeated Ofsted inspections in Rotherham failed to lift the lid on the Council’s shameful inability to tackle child sexual exploitation. As a Committee, we will want to question Ofsted about their inspection regime and ask why their inspections were so ineffective in Rotherham.
As I write, Ofsted has just reported that children’s services remain inadequate in Rotherham[2]. I have little doubt that, over the coming months, Ofsted will find that services in other councils that it had previously rated as good will be found wanting.
And, Ofsted has just published a wider-ranging report[3] which states that child sexual exploitation has not been treated as the priority that events in Rotherham and elsewhere suggested it should have been.

We all have to come to terms with the fact that vulnerable children in every community are at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse. 

We all have a role to play in preventing it and taking action to bring to account those who abuse children or fail to keep them safe.

Monday, 17 November 2014

The criminals’ friends

Last week, I wrote about how I simply didn’t understand the logic of those MPs – mainly Conservative MPs and the UKIP MP – who are implacably opposed to the European Arrest Warrant, seemingly just because they hate the EU[1].

It is clear that opting out of the European Arrest Warrant would make it much harder to deport foreign criminals. It would also make it more difficult for us to bring British citizens who have committed crimes abroad back to our country to face justice.

When I wrote that, I hadn’t realised quite how incompetent this government is in dealing with foreign criminals. That was until I’d got round to reading the latest National Audit Office (NAO) report [2].

Fewer foreign criminals have been deported each and every year under Cameron and Clegg than was the case in 2010. Last year, there were 375 fewer deportations, a drop of 7% [3]. And, even more worryingly, fewer deportation orders were being served.
In 2010, there were 143 days between a deportation order and the offender leaving the country, but last year it increased to 187 days. Why?

NAO found that more than a third of failed removals were due to poor processing. They included failures to fill in the forms, to get the necessary papers and even to book the plane tickets that were needed. It is extraordinary that the government is trying to take credit for cutting bureaucracy and public expenditure without drawing attention to the shambles it is creating by doing so.

More foreign criminals have disappeared, too. About 190 absconded last year, and there has been a 6% increase since 2010. Most concerning, 58 highly dangerous foreign criminals that have gone missing over the last 4 years. Yet according to the NAO report, there are only 11 staff working on 700 cases, 10 of whom are very junior.

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that some of our representatives have no interest in arresting UK criminals who have fled abroad and then bringing them to justice, and little interest in efficiently and effectively deporting foreign criminals who have been convicted here.

Aren’t they the criminals’ friends?

[1]  Tuesday, 11 November 2014

[2] Managing and removing foreign national offenders