Whistleblowers who flagged up a lack of action by council bosses were bullied, harassed and driven out of their jobs, a report reveals.
Instead of acting on the confidential information given to them to help protect children at risk of abuse, the bosses turned on the informants.
Inspectors found that Rotherham council went to ‘some lengths’ to cover up information handed to it. In three cases, people who blew the whistle felt they had been marginalised by bosses, bullied, harassed and victimised as a result.
In two cases, whistleblowers claimed they were deliberately ‘restructured’ out. In a third case, they felt they had been marginalised and were forced to leave their job.
One said:”I stepped forward on behalf of young people. I am am proud to have done so despite the cost to my health and financial situation. The machine at Rotherham Council doesn’t care, won’t listen and simply exists to cover up and destroy.”
Another staff member said: “We’ve all been made aware of the (whistleblowing) procedure, but no one ever dares use it, because if they did, eventually it would come back to bite them in the backside and they would be bullied out of the organisation.”
In the report Louise Casey said: “It has created an unhealthy climate where people fear to speak out because they have seen the consequences of doing so for others.
‘Staff have spoken to inspectors of being afraid to speak out, told to keep quiet, instructed to cover up, and of a culture where “if you want to keep your job, you keep your mouth shut.”
‘Inspectors received evidence to show that the council did not always do the right thing. Sometimes this was because officers were worried about the impact on the council’s reputation.’
‘The youth centre, Ricky Business, which worked directly with victims of child sex abuse, flagged up ‘uncomfortable truths’ and was shut down.
Mrs Casey said: “Child abuse and exploitation happens all over the country, but Rotherham is different in that it was repeatedly told by its own youth service what was happening and it chose, not only not to act, but to close that service down.”
She added: “This is important because it points to how it has dealt with uncomfortable truths put before it.”