Book Review: By David Lane

Child Sexual Exploitation After Rotherham
By Adele Gladman and Angie Heal
Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2017)
ISBN   978-1-78592-027-1

(If you are looking for the latest review by David Lane on Peter Higginbotham’s ‘Children’s Homes: A history of institutional care for Britain’s young’, please follow this link.

As David Greenwood says on the cover blurb, this book is “the defining work on sexual exploitation of children in the UK”, as it contains a considerable amount of valuable guidance on the ways in which child protection system should be managed. This is, of course, a niche market, primarily consisting of the people who run child protection systems, but with quite a large hinterland of professionals who work with those who run the system, such as health service workers, social workers and academics, many of whom will have an interest in its contents.

The book is a slightly strange mixture of three strands – an account of child protection in Rotherham, practical advice on the management of child protection systems, and a range of examples from practice and quotations from abused children and others.

The account of the Rotherham child abuse scandal is well researched, laid out well and balanced. The balance is important, if readers are to see Rotherham in the wider context of child abuse and child protection nationally and if the pitfalls concerning Asian taxi-drivers are to be avoided. The scandal was, and still is, horrific, not only because of the sheer volume of abuse, but also because of the struggles of whistle-blowers to get their concerns recognised and acted upon. The authors deserve credit not only for their book but also for the roles they played in getting something done.

I still find the figure of 1400 children abused over ten years difficult to accept. This means that every three days, roughly, an additional child was abused, throughout the ten years covered by the scandal. I would in no way minimise the impact of the abuse on the children, but the numbers do not accord with my experience of the numbers abused by non-family members. As with many developments in social work, it may just be that we have to accept and absorb the unexpected and unacceptable, and be prepared to take action ourselves.

It is the practical advice that should make the book a standard work. This goes into appropriate detail and offers good common sense based on considerable experience. One of the features which I appreciated was the encouragement to child protection workers not only to respond to children seeking help, but to be pro-active, for example in identifying hot spots in communities where vulnerable children on the loose may congregate.

The personal inputs and accounts of cases are what makes the book come alive, as the reader can then appreciate the impact of abuse on children, not only in their childhood but in their later lives as adults. As a non-specialist reader I found these accounts moving, by contrast with the advice sections, which are necessary, but rather tedious. For readers involved in running the child protection system, the advice might usefully be extracted and turned into a handbook.

David C. Lane                                                                                                              25 06 17

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