Sex abuse survivors in Kirklees still being helped years after scandal broke

Kirklees Council is still pouring money into helping survivors of non-recent child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the district.

Monday, 11th October 2021, 3:00 pm
The 20 members of the Huddersfield grooming gang convicted of offences against young, vulnerable girls and jailed in 2018.

The authority has approved £60,000 to help people affected by the scandal, which resulted in jail sentences three years ago for a 20-strong grooming gang.

Another 11 men go to trial next year and in 2023.

The 12-month contract began on October 1 and will run until September 30, 2022.

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The council can decide to extend the contract for up to two years, ending in 2024.

The move has been welcomed by Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, who said the council was right to commit resources to teenagers and young women who had been “dreadfully abused in the worst possible way”.

He said: “Being vigilant and supportive is the very least that we owe to them.”

The spending represents the latest stage in the council’s ongoing response to the legacy of CSE, which was highlighted in November 2016 by a scathing 38-page inspection report.

That report, by education watchdog Ofsted, said services for vulnerable children in Kirklees were “inadequate, due to serious widespread failures which result in some children not being protected or having their needs met”.

It revealed that the Kirklees Safeguarding Children Board had raised the alarm about social work standards in August 2015, prompting then-chief executive Adrian Lythgo to launch an independent review.

A review of 226 cases found 10 per cent were of concern, with urgent action required to help some children.

Since 2014 senior figures in the children’s services team have been replaced.

Children’s services staff on Kirklees Council worked closely with West Yorkshire Police on its investigation into allegations of historic grooming and child sexual abuse in Huddersfield.

That investigation, dubbed Operation Tendersea, led to the conviction and jailing of 20 men for a total of 257 years at Leeds Crown Court in 2018.

The service was consequently put into special measures by the Government.

A further 11 men from Dewsbury and Batley face trial next year for 104 alleged offences include rape, aiding and abetting rape, sexual activity with a child, indecent assault, sexual assault and supplying drugs.

They relate to five females and are said to have occurred between 1999 and 2012.

The council appointed Mel Meggs in December 2018 as director of children’s services to turn the department around.

An Ofsted inspector later highlighted what she described as “a renewed energy and determination” in the service under Ms Meggs’ “strong and resilient senior leadership”.

Government intervention in Kirklees’ children’s services ended last year following “significant progress” in the way children and young people are supported in the district.

Responding to news of the council’s support, Mr Sheerman said: “This is something that I keep a very close eye on.

“These victims suffered the most dreadful kinds of abuse. They deserve the full support of the community.

“We owe it to the victims to make sure that any of the people that exploited them pay the penalty.

“The sooner the justice system deals with them, the better.

“I monitor information flows and police activity because some of these ghastly people have come out of prison, so I keep a check on it.”