AN investigation into historic allegations of child sexual exploitation in Oldham is ‘likely’ to be incorporated into a Greater Manchester review after the academic appointed to lead the inquiry stepped down.
The Oldham Safeguarding Partnership (OSP) had commissioned Dr Mark Peel to look at the safeguarding processes at the council during 2012-13 at the request of council leader Sean Fielding.
His remit was to see whether the police, council and safeguarding agencies provided an ‘appropriate response’ to allegations of inappropriate access to young people involving ‘shisha bars, taxi companies and children’s homes’.
However Dr Peel, who is the current independent chair of both Leeds and Lambeth safeguarding children’s partnerships, has stepped down prior to the reivew beginning.
The council did not explain why he is no longer heading up the review, as it had previously announced on November 1.
Dr Peel was contacted for comment by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
However, bosses have announced the review is now ‘likely’ to become part of an ongoing review into sexual and criminal exploitation of children and young people across Greater Manchester.
Cllr Fielding and OSP chair Henri Giller have written to Mayor Andy Burnham and the GM Safeguarding Standards Board’s chair Jane Shuttleworth to request the Oldham review is combined into the GM work.
The remit will remain the same, which includes looking at the extent to which historical actions and employment records have been ‘adequately investigated’ in the case of ‘known offenders’ previously employed within Oldham public services.
It is understood this relates to jailed Rochdale grooming leader Shabir Ahmed, who worked at Oldham Council until the mid-2000s.
A council spokesperson said: “There have been unsubstantiated allegations relating to Oldham Council circulating on social media but if members of the public have evidence of improper actions by individuals or agencies in Oldham they should approach GMP directly with their concerns.”
The wider GMCA safeguarding assurance will look at current safeguarding practice across the entire partnership.
Mr Giller said: “There are many advantages to combining the work because the lens on safeguarding practice in Oldham will be as great, if not greater, than what was originally planned while the independent nature of the work will not be diminished.
‘Working with GM Complex Safeguarding Hub will enable Oldham to continue to benefit from the ongoing work across Greater Manchester setting new standards or safeguarding practices.”
Mayor Andy Burnham said: “Oldham Council has requested that a range of historical allegations around the sexual exploitation of children in the borough are examined by the ongoing independent review of child sexual exploitation that I set up with the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Bev Hughes.
“Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgeway, who are conducting the review, have agreed to consider these allegations as part of their work.
“I’m grateful that Malcolm and Gary have agreed to do this, as any allegations of child sexual abuse must be treated with the utmost seriousness.
“This review will only focus on historical allegations relating to child sexual exploitation.”
Malcolm Newsam CBE was previously appointed as the commissioner for children’s social care in Rotherham by the Secretary of State for Education in 2014.
Gary Ridgeway is a former detective superintendent in Cambridgeshire Police and head of public protection.
Report by Charlotte Green: Local Democracy Reporter