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Labour leader promises independent panel for survivors of exploitation

Oldham Labour plans to create an independent panel to address concerns around child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the borough if they remain in leadership.

The ‘Independent Survivors’ Commission’ will allow victims and survivors to lead on how the issue is dealt with, according to Labour leader Arooj Shah.

Coun Shah wrote: “Some in our Borough suffered unimaginable hurt and horror and they need to be heard. We are looking to work with colleagues to ensure vulnerable people who were failed by those in authority have access to justice and will create an Independent Survivors’ Commission – independent of the council and the influence of politics – so that victims and survivors of exploitation can determine what they want and need, as well as determining the terms of reference for any future review.” 

The commission would follow on from a GMCA review published in 2022 that investigated whether the council had provided ‘appropriate responses’ to protect children who were vulnerable to sexual exploitation. The report found that Oldham Council’s response to allegations had been ‘inadequate’ in specific instances of historic CSE, but uncovered  ‘no evidence’ of a widespread cover-up by councillors, which was a concern raised online. 

The Independent Survivor’s Commission would be able to weigh in on how Oldham Council should deal with the historic failings and whether the perimeters of the review – which focussed on the time between 2011-14 – should be reconsidered. 

The treatment of historic CSE has been a contentious issue in the council chambers in the past few years. Council meetings have frequently erupted into argument, protest and personal insult over the issue. 

Maggie Oliver, the GMPA detective turned whistleblower over the Rochdale grooming scandal and founder of the Maggie Oliver Foundation, hopes the move would see the politics removed from discussions about how to move forwards from the last report. 

She told the LDRS: “We welcome any move that gives the opportunity for survivors to be heard.  Their horrendous experiences should not be used for political point scoring.  

“As I always say, the devil is in the detail with these things but it gives some hope that this important issue is being taken out of political chambers and put into the hands of those who are experts by experience.”

Exact details about the nature of the commission are yet to be determined.

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