Gate. Horse. Bolted. So Prime Minister David Cameron hosts a self-described ‘crisis summit’ at Downing Street in the wake of the horrific revelations of child sex abuse in Rotherham, Oxford, Rochdale, Telford, Derby and …and… insert place names here of a variety of other alleged locations ranging from Westminster to the BBC and beyond.
The aim is to flag possible legislative measures to ensure civil servants discharge their duties and protect those in society who need it most.
To which the only response can be: what took you so long, Dave?
The sickening revelations have been dribbling out for years. It is a fact teachers, councillors, police, NHS staff and social workers in England and Wales have categorically failed to protect young children from sexual predators for a generation.
We know only a few prosecutions have followed in the wake of this profound failure of civic society. This is despite a dozen ongoing investigations and inquiries into historical abuse allegations in institutions around the UK.
For all that, only now is the government acting and is doing it in the way it knows best; making promulgations and threatening prosecution.
What a timorous response. So many words and so little action.
David Cameron will say that in Rotherham and elsewhere, children had been “ignored, sometimes blamed” with the issue of exploitation “swept under the carpet”.
He will also say: “That culture of denial which let them down so badly must be eradicated.
“Today I am sending an unequivocal message that professionals who fail to protect children will be held properly accountable, and council bosses who preside over such catastrophic failure will not see rewards for that failure.
“It is not just about introducing new policies. It is about making sure that the professionals we charge with protecting our children – the council staff, police officers and social workers – do the jobs they are paid to do.
“We owe it to our children, and to the children who survive horrific sexual abuse, to do better and ensure the mistakes of the past are never repeated again.”
A culture of mismanagement and cover-up has gone on for too long. It is institutionalised, wilful blindness.
Systemic failures have been condoned with silence, serial bunglers rewarded with promotion and whistle blowers shunned. Why is anything going to change now, after the event(s)?
All the while the progressive left have (mostly) been silent. They are wedded to the idea that protecting cultural sensitivities in the sacred name of political correctness trumps the rights of young girls to live their life without fear of sexual servitude.
The author of one independent report goes further. Professor Alexis Jay found that at least 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham alone by gangs of men who were predominantly of Pakistani origin between 1997 and 2013.
Prof Jay, who is taking part in Tuesday’s summit, said the issue had been made worse in some cases by the attitude of professionals.
She said: “Social workers were found to describe the issues as being lifestyle choices by some of the children and young people concerned.
“And the police, in my experience, certainly were extremely derogatory in the way they addressed and described the young people concerned.”
Jay warns that a culture change across the country is needed, adding “there are issues around child sexual exploitation in virtually every community”.
In virtually EVERY community.
Sure the government plans to make it a criminal offence to wilfully neglect those at risk of, and victims of, child sexual abuse.
Social workers, education practitioners and local councillors would be covered by the sanction, which would be introduced as an extension of the crime of wilful neglect of patients by care workers in this year’s Criminal Justice and Courts Act.
Yet these proposals are only going out to consultation. There will be further reports to come and committee recommendations sought ahead of any legislation being brought before parliament for a vote.
It will be years before David Cameron’s intentions are fully acted upon. All the while the abuse will continue, to the eternal shame of those who have the power but not the ideological or intestinal fortitude to stop it.
Too little, too late. That’s just not good enough.