20/07/2022 - Permalink

Leader’s statement on Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Telford

Related topics: Children's services / Corporate / Partner organisations

At this morning’s Cabinet meeting (Wednesday 20 July 2022), Lezley Picton, Leader of Shropshire Council, gave the following statement:-

Last week, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Telford published its report after more than three years of work and hearing harrowing testimony from many brave survivors.

I want to begin by reiterating this administration’s view that exploitation in all its forms is a horrific crime which must be rooted out at every opportunity. It is one that I am sure all councillors would agree with.

The Inquiry has shown how this has ruined the young lives of over 1,000 of its victims in Telford stretching back for over 40 years into the 1970s, and that opportunities to prevent this were missed by many different agencies.

Our thoughts are with the victims and their families who must live with the impact of this crime. We must ensure they get the support they need and that we all work together to prevent this ever happening again.

The Inquiry was commissioned by, and has focused on, our neighbouring council of Telford & Wrekin, but the lessons that must be learned apply across whole of the UK as nowhere, including here in Shropshire, is free from this crime.

Thankfully awareness is now far greater. In Shropshire, we now have much stronger safeguards in place to help partners and the community identify, intervene and protect those at risk.

Practice among the very broad range of partners involved in protecting children at risk of sexual and other exploitation is now very different from that in 1989, the start of the period covered by the Inquiry. Like all authorities involved in looking after children, the conclusions and recommendations are vital for learning and an opportunity for in-depth review offers a chance to further improve practice.

While Shropshire Council is a different authority to its predecessor Shropshire County Council, and while I have only been a councillor since 2017, I want to take this opportunity to offer my sincere apologies to any victims that were failed by any shortcomings in Shropshire County Council’s practice prior to 1998, when responsibility for social care transferred to Telford & Wrekin Council.

We are reviewing the 47 recommendations and will apply all those that improve practice here. There is one recommendation on licensing of taxis that applies directly to us and other authorities in the region. We will do what is in our powers to ensure we implement this as quickly as possible, however this also relies on a similar commitment from other councils.

We will also be asking relevant scrutiny committees to look at these recommendations further to ensure that our processes are clear and open for all to see.

I also want to stress that Shropshire Council has voluntarily supported the Inquiry. This has included providing significant documentary evidence, as well as contacting and helping put the Inquiry in touch with a number of key former Shropshire County Council employees who have then given evidence to the Inquiry.

I have seen some claims that Shropshire Council has not co-operated with the inquiry. This is simply not true.

In his report Tom Crowther QC could not be clearer. He says:-

“There will be conspiracy theorists that may read into this that Shropshire Council has something to hide and therefore has deliberately not provided documents. I want to address this head on; I do not believe that to be the case.”

The council believes it engaged with the Inquiry proportionately and in a reasonable manner and provided the Inquiry with information that was more relevant to that which was originally requested.

The number of documents the council has submitted also does not take account the many thousands of Shropshire County Council documents and children’s case files that were transferred to Telford & Wrekin Council in 1998 and formed part of the evidence submitted by Telford & Wrekin.

However if there are survivors who wish to access their files from the Shropshire County Council period pre-1998, and if these files are still in our possession, we’re committed to doing all we legally can to help them to do so.

Finally, and I cannot stress strongly enough, everyone has a part to play to ensure we are, together, doing all we can to stop the exploitation of young people; from our staff, our partners and professionals to the wider community.

If anyone is concerned about or thinks a child or young person is at risk of exploitation, please contact one of these numbers:-

  • report this anonymously: contact CrimeStoppers UK on 0800 555 111.
  • Call Shropshire Council’s First Point of Contact team on 0345 678 9021. This is a 24 hour number.
  • Call the police on 101. If you think someone is in immediate danger, call 999.

We continue to work as part of Shropshire Safeguarding Community Partnership and to raise awareness of all forms of exploitation, including child sexual exploitation.