Government inspectors failed to detect child sexual exploitation in Rotherham because they trusted council staff, a report by MPs has said.
The Communities and Local Government Committee said Ofsted inspections had been “ineffective”.
The committee, examining how the abuse of more than 1,400 children in Rotherham over a 16-year period went undetected, called for all English local authorities to be re-inspected.
Ofsted said it welcomed the report.
Labour MP Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said: “The perpetrators bear ultimate responsibility for the sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham but the ineffectiveness of Ofsted’s inspections contributed to a failure to expose the extent of the problem and to detect Rotherham Council’s ongoing and tragic inability to combat it on the ground.”
He added the “shortcomings” of inspection arrangements left serious concerns child sexual exploitation might have been missed in other areas.
‘Jealousy and incompetence’
The report said inquiries by Ofsted had put too much trust in what staff said rather than checking policies had been implemented and were working.
Inspections were, it said, “too short and narrowly focused” and had failed to probe beyond what Ofsted was being told by council officials.
“It failed to penetrate the professional jealousy and incompetence that distorted the operation of Children’s Social Care in Rotherham.” the report concluded.
It also said inspectors focused on whether paperwork was in order rather than examining the practical care of youngsters.
The committee acknowledged the agency’s inspection methods had changed but said its “credibility” was on the line.
“Ofsted now needs to re-inspect all local authorities in England at the earliest opportunity to ensure councils have identified and are tackling child sexual exploitation in their communities,” Mr Betts said.
He said the organisation needed to “get under the skin of what is happening in local authorities”.
An Ofsted spokesman said: “We welcome the report and the committee’s recognition that the changes we have made since 2012 strengthen our ability to uncover where children are at risk.
“We know we didn’t get it right historically in Rotherham and have apologised for those mistakes.”