Leaders unite to back child abuse inquiry call

A teenage girl obscures her face with balled fists pressed against her eyes as she leans against a wall
Local agencies failed to protect children who were abused in Oldham, a 2022 review found [PA Media]

Political leaders in Oldham have called on the government to investigate child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the town.

They joined forces to demand the Home Office reviews the handling of abuse and exploitation cases going back over a decade.

A previous investigation headed by Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) found no evidence of a cover up.

But it did find that victims were failed by police and other agencies meant to protect them from harm.

So far, the government has resisted calls to carry out a review.

Victims 'want answers'

Failsworth Independent Party councillor Brian Hobin told a council meeting on Wednesday that the call for a fresh review was "not about point-scoring… it is simply about those who have been affected by these disgraceful, despicable crimes, who have featured far too little in the noise of the last few years".

The 2022 GMCA review focusing on cases between 2011 and 2014 was criticised for its "limited scope".

Opposition figures’ motions calling for an independent inquiry were subsequently blocked by the Labour group, which was in control at the time.

There were protests at council meetings and, in 2023, Labour council leader Amanda Chadderton lost her seat, claiming she was voted out in part because of unfounded conspiracy theories about CSE in the town.

The current Labour council leader, Arooj Shah, whose group lost overall control of the council in May, has now struck a deal with independent members to call for a government inquiry.

'Shaped by survivors'

Labour councillor Shaid Mushtaq, cabinet member for children and young people, told Wednesday’s meeting the 2022 report was “very thorough”.

He said the local authority had "rightly apologised" for failures.

But he added: "Since that time, survivors and those affected by these crimes have told us that they feel that the scope of the original review did not go far enough - essentially that not everyone had the opportunity to give their testimony and have their voices and experiences heard.

"We are backing this motion because it’s what those affected have told us they want to see – it has been shaped by the survivors.

"In the meantime, we will continue to work with organisations across the borough to protect our young people and help bring abusers to justice."

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