Parrhesia Inc

Advancing Whistleblowing

Sara Rowbotham MBE

Councillor Sara Rowbotham, Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Climate Change & Sustainability for Rochdale Council.

Between 2003 and 2014, Sara headed up the NHS Rochdale Crisis Intervention Team, tasked with identifying young people who were vulnerable in relation to their sexual health. During her tenure, she began to suspect that young people in the area were facing systematic sexual abuse and were being exploited by groups of older men.

From 2004 onwards, she made 181 alerts to police and social services detailing the abuse and sexual grooming of young people. In 2012 she told the Home Affairs Select Committee that Rochdale’s Child Protection Services had failed to act on her alerts and the abuse was widespread. Consequently, Government placed the Boroughs services into ‘special measures’ and over a period of around six months approx. 25 senior officials across a number of organisations either publicly resigned, retired or were sacked.

12months following her appearance in front of the Select Committee Sara was made redundant.

Sara’s tireless efforts to expose the abuse was portrayed by Maxine Peake in the BAFTA award winning BBC drama Three Girls, showing the dedication, commitment and courage of the NHS staff who go above and beyond to provide the best possible care in the most challenging circumstances.

In 2018 Sara received a Special Recognition at the NHS Heroes Awards and was made an honorary member of the Council of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).

In 2021 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

Sara has been a witness in eight court cases for Rochdale victims since 2014 all of which have led to the successful prosecution of dozens of abusers.