‘We could have saved Rotherham heartache’ says retiring Sheffield MP David Blunkett

The Right Honourable David Blunkett in Sheffield ahead of the General Election'Picture by Dean Atkins
The Right Honourable David Blunkett in Sheffield ahead of the General Election'Picture by Dean Atkins

Retiring Sheffield MP David Blunkett says he wished he had known the scale of the child sex abuse problem when he was Home Secretary to prevent ‘terrible heartache’.

Mr Blunkett, Labour Home Secretary from 2001 to 2003, said: “We made it absolutely clear to policing services across the country they were to take these issues seriously and to listen.

“Of course, the original funding for some of the non-government, non-council activity like the one in Rotherham – Risky Business – would have been funded on a long-term basis.

“I worked with an organisation, CROP, for parents of youngsters who’d been cajoled into prostitution, I learned a lot from them and we did a lot with them.

“But if we knew what we know now, and what’s emerged, really about the area from 2007 I think we’d have been able to save a lot of misery and a lot of the terrible heartache.”

The independent Jay report last year revealed at least 1,400 children had been sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, while authorities turned a blind eye.

But the retiring Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough MP has ruled himself out of leading a new inquiry into South Yorkshire Police after claims officers did not take action in Sheffield when cases emerged.

Mr Blunkett said: “My plea is people do come forward.

“It has been a drip, drip process, victims coming forward, occasionally police officers or social workers coming forward, researchers.

“We need everyone now to say what they know, and Alan Billings, South Yorkshire police and crome commissioner, has made it clear there will be a confidential, independent way of doing that, so people don’t think they are giving evidence to those who might have been involved themselves.”

Mr Blunkett said he was ‘proud’ of laws and measures brought in to tackle sexual offences during his time in Government.