SURVIVORS of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and concerned parents have helped secure funding for support services to help tackle grooming gangs in their town.
The Rotherham Steer Group, which includes victims, their families and survivors of both historic and current abuse, met up with leading charities, KPMG Foundation, Barnardo’s, the Directory of Social Change (DSC) and Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC) to try and secure help earlier this year.
On Monday (3), it was announced that the charities had donated £3 million to Rotherham, a town marred by rampant abuse by sexual grooming gangs for decades.
A report by Professor Alexis Jay revealed how around 1,400 girls were the victims of abuse in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013.
They were lured with gifts and fast cars, then plied with drugs and drink by gangs of mainly Asian men who sexually abused them.
Sexual abuse victim Jessica (not her real name), who is part of the steer group, was allegedly groomed by married man Arshid Hussain, now 39, when she was just 14.
She said the donation by the charities was “great news” and showed that the steer group had “definite credibility”.
“It goes to show that us coming forward and not only speaking about it, but also being involved with different agencies to tackle CSE made a massive difference. I’m hoping other people will see that,” she told Eastern Eye.
The group will be working with children’s charity Barnardo’s to help use the money in the “right way”, she added.
“It will be led by Barnardo’s, but we will be meeting with them and we are going to be on board making sure that the money is spent well. There’s no point of having a big lump sum and not spending it the right way,” Jessica said.
Last week, the steer group met up with commissioner Mary Ney to discuss their strategy to tackle CSE, which they hope can be implemented by councils nationwide.
Ney is one of five commissioners in Rotherham appointed by the government in February to tackle some of the serious failings across the authority.
The plans include calling on all taxis to have CCTV and tracking devices, take-away workers being trained to spot signs of child sexual exploitation, and posters in schools.
Jessica said: “She [Ney] says she wants us on board with our ideas and wants to meet us on a regular basis, which I thought was really good. We discussed the licensing on taxis which are already being implemented now and also restaurants and take-aways.
“I feel really determined about these plans. They have to be done. It’s not only going to only help reduce CSE but it could also reduce other different crimes such as fraud and drug dealing.”
Earlier this month, around 100 taxi drivers in Rotherham took part in a strike over new rules requiring them to install CCTV cameras, one of the suggestion in the steer group’s plan.
The new licensing policy, which also requires drivers to adhere to a dress code, reviews licences and introduces additional background checks.
Drivers said they condemn those people who have been involved in child grooming, but the new laws were “draconian” and they shouldn’t “tar us all with the same brush”.
Jessica said it was “a shame” the drivers were protesting.
“They are saying they are against child abuse but what they need to realise is the safety of children is the most important thing,” she said.
“Having cameras in their taxis isn’t just going to help prevent CSE but it can also help the drivers as well.
“Taxi drivers should be self-employed and they will be able to claim that back through tax expenses, so really it’s not going to actually cost them anything.
“These plans are about safeguarding everybody.”