Monday, 27 January 2020

No assurance in the `Assurance Report`

[UK Column News, 15 January 2020]

"Well of course the other thing we ought to remind people of - and I`m sorry because this is not a particularly pleasant topic -  but we have a prime minister, Boris Johnston who describes expenditure investigating child abuse as money that has been spaffed. That`s his language for ejaculated up the wall. This is the standard of Britain`s prime minister; and let`s immediately bring in the BBC because the BBC crowing yesterday that the report`s come out about the failure of Manchester city council and other authorities including greater Manchester police to protect children."

"The BBC particularly crowing because the report starts off itself by effectively congratulating the BBC on its investigations into child abuse. But of course this is the same BBC that covered up the activities of Jimmy Savile when he was doing his dirty deeds, paid by the BBC. But let`s have a look through this report; and UK Column is going to say this is not all it seems. So first of all, credit where it`s due.

"And the Telegraph here in its article with a picture of Maggie Oliver.  And we`re going to say that it`s not the BBC that people should be congratulating; it`s very brave whistleblowers - these whistleblowers in particular - Maggie Oliver and John Wedger and several others, who have finally started to force the lid off child abuse in UK."

"But of course the Telegraph headline here is getting into the political agenda; because it`s an `Asian grooming gang free to roam the streets` and indeed many of in this case were... Asian, but the people running the child protection system and failing in their duty, of course, were not Asian. So there`s many questions to be asked."

"But let`s just get a feel for this case... these points are not being reported by the BBC or in any press outlet. So this is from Manchester City Council; this is the sort of thing you see on their website when you go and have a look about what you should do about child abuse and this is the old line, Mike. `Tell us about someone being abused or neglected. Trust us. If you`ve got any information come to us and tell us about what has happened to you. We will protect you. We will ensure there`s anonymity. We will take action.` But, of course, what has emerged in this report and in many other places elsewhere is that once information is brought forward, either nothing happens or those people, the victims, are not protected."

"But here is the big report. It`s an `independence assurance  review of the effectiveness of multi-agency responses to child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester` . This is Part One. There`s more to come."

"`An Assurance review of Operation Augusta`. Now Operation Augusta was Greater Manchester`s police investigation into abuse of youngsters, particularly by Asian men, We can see here that the authors are Malcolm Newsam and Gary Ridgway ...There`s the embargo on the bottom... But I`m going to say just remember those two names. When you get inside, and this is not mentioned at all by the so-called mainstream press, we get a huge caveat. And what does that caveat say? Well, effectively, it says this:"

"`The report is independent.` [laughter] We always get a sense, a reassurance, Mike, when we see that `this report is independent`. We`ll be seeing exactly how independent it is in a minute."

"There is no check of accuracy or completeness of information provided."

"Oh !"

Brian Gerrish goes on in discussion with Mike Robinson to say that he had read this with great interest: "Because a report has been produced which has  now been blasted out over the media in the UK but apparently there wasn`t any checks of accuracy or completeness of information provided." He wonders what would have happened in his professional life if had he followed these same standards.

"Especially in military action," interjects Mike Robinson.

Moving forward, "And then it says: `For the avoidance of doubt, no responsibility or liability is or will be accepted by Imprana Ltd and GKR Partnership in relation to the release of this report and any such liability is expressly disclaimed.` So somebody there in a big hurry to make sure that if a few questions are asked - `Whew ! It`s nothing to do with us`."

"So where is the responsibility there?"

"Well we`re going to sort of ask about that. So let`s have a look at the assurance team. This is an interesting expression: it`s an assurance report. Who are they assuring? They`re certainly not assuring the victims of abuse, the survivors of abuse - it gets very woolly."

"But here`s Malcolm Newsam: `experienced child care expert with extensive experience of providing diagnostics, interventions and improvement support to a range of councils across the country. In October 2014 the Secretary of State for Education appointed him as the Commissioner for Children`s Social Care in Rotherham`...I`m not going to continue going on through it," Brian Gerrish says; but he emphasises that this is a `government man`. "There`s no question of it. He has been brought in, supposedly, to improve failing authorities in ... [child protection] but a huge amount of controversy around him and he`s supported here by a police officer, a former police officer, Gary Ridgway who has been praised for achieving good results in investigating child sexual exploitation. So I`m not going to challenge Mr Ridgway at all but Malcolm Newsam we say: who is this man? And we can start to ask a key question: how independent is he in order to investigate the government`s own system for protecting children?"

"Well I went and had a little look at him at Imprana Ltd and GKR Partnerships... Here`s GKR Partners Ltd and we`ve got a Gareth Leslie Johnson . Don`t know much about that name but I was intrigued that it`s a risk management consultancy. .. So who`s worried about the amount of risk? Is that the team that produced the report? Are they worried about their own risk? Or is this Greater Manchester Council and the police, worried about their risk and what`s printed in the report? And if you go to the other side, Imprana Ltd... there happens to be a Malcolm Newsam involved, and I`m going to guess that ... this is the same man, same name, same company. But let`s have a look at this individual."

"Well we`re going back to 2011. And here`s the Daily Mail. `The temps paid up to £1,250 a day by council that`s slashing hundreds of jobs.` So the headline is absolutely right, Kent County Council getting rid of people hand over fist, putting together a plan to get rid of about 300 people altogether and they were paying a number of consultants, including the man we`re interested in, one thousand two hundred and fifty pounds a day."

"The most highly-paid temp is families and care director Malcolm Newsam who costs the council £1,250 a day, followed by Alistair Pettigrew....` So this is a very interesting man ... and we`ve got another report here from the Peterborough Telegraph:"

"`Experienced manager Malcolm Newsam could earn a salary of more than £230,000 over the 12 months that he is expected to stay on as interim director of children`s services at the council if the appointment is approved`."

"`Mr Newsam has a proven track record of turning around failing children`s services departments and his appointment has been proposed after the council was slammed by Ofsted in September for failing to safeguard vulnerable children.`"

"Now, is a man who`s in a job like that as a result of a hand in government, is he... is he going to criticise the government? Possibly, I don`t know. But it seems interesting. He`s a proven track record of turning around failing children`s services. So that`s good. And there`s a consultancy firm mentioned there, MCBN Management Consultancy and the day-rate there was £1,045. So he hit the headlines here after this amount of money was being paid to him, and then the council explained ... that they had a poor Ofsted report but they complemented  him. They said he had been very open and transparent in his way of working and he`s helped us restore public confidence in the council. So that`s good praise and we`ll put that up on screen to be fair, and we`ll highlight that. He`s been very open and transparent..."

"So let`s have a look at this one. This is Community Care, and they`re talking about `turmoil for Northamptonshire children`s services as DfE appointed commissioner quits."

"Now this is where it gets interesting, Mike, because this is Mr Newsam again. He seemed to disappear without anybody really knowing why... but there was interest in this man because he`d come under fire from Northamptonshire councillors because of his `lack of visibility and accountability.`"

"So which is it?" asks Mike Robinson. "Is he open and transparent? Or has he got a lack of visibility and accountability?"

Brian Gerrish: "Or does he go whichever way the wind blows and wherever the money comes from? So the DfE did not reply to questions as to the reason for Newsam`s recent exit but a spokesperson said: `we`re making good progress with the creation of a new Children`s Services trust and are grateful to Malcolm Newsam for his role in transforming these services. We will be appointing a new commissioner before Malcolm leaves to finish this crucial work`."

"Now this is a little clue to what I believe is really going on because this man is a change agent. He`s changing council services for children into a trust and my personal opinion is as these trusts appear actually the accountability declines and the transparency declines."

Mike Robinson: "As has happened with the NHS."

"As has happened with the NHS. Privatization comes in. You don`t know what you`re dealing with. So we get that very early hook that maybe something special is happening."

"Let `s have a look at the report. So I`ve entitled this one `Multi-Disciplinary Teams... we`re all in it together.` But look at what the report actually says: `The team will report directly to the Deputy Mayor in relation to progress and outcomes. The Deputy Mayor has invited Joanne Roney, Chief Exectuve of Manchester City Council and lead GMCA Chief Executive for Children, Jim Taylor, Chief Executive of Salford City Council and a former Director of Children`s Services and Debbie Ford, Assistant Chief Constable, GMP, to join her in providing governance and oversight of the exercise in the steering group`."

"So this is the team investigating itself, Mike. We haven`t got a separate, secure investigation going on where the evidence is being carefully put to one side. What we`ve got is a gaggle of people working through their own mistakes: but `don`t worry because everything is independent`.

"So here we are: `We `assure` the public we`ve investigated ourselves fully ... "

"`Throughout our review we have shared our findings with Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council. Greater Manchester Police has confirmed the following additional information` [and it`s a love affair. They`re all loving each other, swapping information, working in collaboration, in order to get to the bottom of what they failed to do as a multidisiplinary team. It could go straight from here on to Yes Minister or the Simpsons..."

"So let`s carry on, because of course the report does produce some very good information, in that it says in a lot of places and a lot of detail that a great number of children ages 12 up to 16, 17 were horrifically abused, prostituted. I`m not going to describe what was done to these children, but look at what it says at 6.82:"

"`We also cannot offer assurance that the risks the identified adults presented to children were appropriately dealt with by either Greater Manchester Police or Manchester City Council.` But all the evidence they uncover in the report has already been shared with the people who failed..."

"7.14 `Although there was significant information held by both Manchester City Council and Greater Manchester Police on individuals who potentially posed a risk to children, we can offer no assurance that appropriate action was taken to address the risks they presented to children`. This theme is repeated through the report, and it`s very clear they knew the abuse was going on . The City Council did nothing. The police closed down an investigation where they were starting to do something, and the multidisciplinary child protection team failed at every level ... or we had malfeasance in public office where they turned a blind eye to crime`."

Mike Robinson: "So we`ve now seen the same patterns in Nottingham, in Rotherham, Rochdale and all these other places in the Midlands and the north of England and yet we`re still getting reports like this and no lessons have been learned, it seems."

"No lessons have been learned, except we can learn the lesson that if you follow it through the pattern of cover-up,  the failure, is always the same. The information is there; the child protection teams in the Council don`t do their job; the police don`t do their job; the coroners don`t do their jobs. Of course in general the politicians don`t do their job. Andy Burnham stepped in at this point but the pattern is that politicians will not get involved. The Home Office will not get involved. The Prime Minister says: `Well there`s no abuse going on, it`s just money spaffed up the wall`."

Mike Robinson: "But there is a common theme through all of this and that is Common Purpose."

Brian Gerrish: "Common Purpose, the integration of the authorities into a leadership team where transparency goes out the window. I think we`re going to find deeper Common Purpose connections, but we`ll keep our viewers informed of that."

"Let`s have a look at this, page 18: `
Out of the 25 cases within our sample, we have concluded that there was a significant probability that 16 children were being sexually exploited and we cannot offer any assurance that this was appropriately addressed by either Greater Manchester Police or the responsible local authority. In respect of the remaining nine children, we have concluded that given the insufficient available information, we cannot form a view as to whether the children had experienced sexual exploitation or whether these concerns were appropriately addressed by either Greater Manchester Police or Manchester City Council or the relevant local authority`..."

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