Minister: care homes ‘like going from frying pan into the fire’ for abused children – The Telegraph
Britain’s most vulnerable children are routinely sent to live in care homes on the same street as hostels for sex offenders and violent criminals, the Children’s Minister disclosed last night.
Many of the homes are in rundown seaside resorts and near to bail hostels, sex offenders and high levels of drug use and prostitution.
About 45% of children in care live outside the local authority that has responsibility for them – and a quarter of England’s 2,074 care homes can be found in the north-west.
Loughton said there were many reasons for the current regime failing. Although police figures show that thousands of children go missing from care every year, the government’s official data recorded only 930 children disappearing.
Tim Loughton launched a withering attack on social services chiefs and the regulator, Ofsted, for allowing alarming numbers of abuse victims to be sent “from the frying pan into the fire”.
He disclosed that police evidence he had seen showed a raft of privately run homes “clustered” in a handful of down-at-heel areas alongside bail hostels and known paedophiles, often hundreds of miles away from their friends and family.
He pledged to summon the heads of the 10 worst offending social services departments to “look them in the eye” and ask them: “Would you send your child to live in an area like that?”
The chair of an influential group of MPs added that the current system of placing vulnerable youngsters far from home had become like an “export trade in children between the English regions” providing a ready supply of victims for abuse.
Mr Loughton also disclosed that the number of failing care homes was dramatically higher than previously thought, after a series of new tougher inspections carried out after the Rochdale grooming scandal.
Paedophiles often know more about children’s care homes in their area than police because of data protection and human rights rules, a stark report on the system by MPs warns.
Similar failings to those which allowed a grooming ring in Rochdale, Lancs, to prey on girls unnoticed by the authorities are happening “all over the country”, it finds.
The report, compiled by two influential committees of MPs concludes that the care system in England is “not fit for purpose” and is “systematically failing” to protect the most vulnerable children.
An unwillingness by different agencies to share even the most basic information – such as the addresses of care homes – is making it almost impossible for police to keep track of or step in to protect children most at risk of abuse, they warn.
Meanwhile there is a “scandalous” failure by councils, regulators and the homes themselves to even record the number of children going missing from care.
Those who do go missing are routinely written off by those trusted with their care as “troublesome” and “promiscuous” or even “slags who should know better”, whistleblowers told the inquiry.
Sources indicated that more than 200 care homes are likely to be failed when the inspections are completed, compared with just two per cent before.
In a thinly veiled attack on Ofsted Mr Loughton said the true number was clearly far higher than “we were previously led to believe.”
He also hit out at an “unjustifiable” culture of secrecy around care homes, which meant that police and local councils are barred from sharing information even about the location of care homes.
And he dismissed official figures suggesting that the number of children going missing from homes is only a fraction of police estimates as “nonsense”.
He was speaking a the preliminary findings of a report on sexual exploitation by the Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz were published.
Miss Berelowitz, who has been interviewing hundreds of victims, found that in a few cases children as young as four have been targeted while girls as young as 10 are being bussed across towns to be abused.
In a wide-ranging report she said that many of the perpetrators were as young as 12, often acting as part of gangs, while the victims were themselves were often used to “recruit” other victims.
She said that despite years of experience in the field she had been taken aback by the “scale of violence and sadism” she was encountering.
“The casual nature with which they engage in this type of violent abuse is really quite chilling,” she added.
“It takes place in cars, in taxis, in people’s homes, in rentedaccommodation, in bus stations, in parks, in open spaces alongside canals in open corridors of flats sometimes, in hotels in schools almost in any place I’m afraid.”
Her report calls for a complete ban on children’s homes being located in “high risk areas”.
Almost half of the 5,000 children in homes in England are living outside their own area but because of restrictions on sharing information, neither socials services or police are able to routinely check where the homes are.
Mr Loughton disclosed that a large number of the 1,810 homes – which charge around £200,000 a year per child – are sited in a handful of seaside towns where property prices are lower.
They include his own constituency of Worthing, East Sussex; Margate, Kent and Blackpool as well as cities such as Rochdale, and parts of the West Midlands.
He told how Kent Police had drawn up a “heat map” of two wards with coloured dots showing where children in care where living as well as prolific criminals, sex offenders and those on licence.
“It is a bit of a minefield of all those things – often in the same street,” he said.
“I’m very concerned that we are packing too many of our children off to distant resorts.”
Good care inside homes was not enough, he said.
“What I’m concerned about is what happens when that child walks out of the front door and all of a sudden finds him or herself in an area where there is a proliferation of people who may want to harm that child.
“They are pushed from pillar to post around the system, they are now pushed out of sight and out of mind as well.”
But he blamed the decision to end children to unsuitable areas on cost considerations and a contracting system which sent children on placements depending on “spot” prices.
He also vowed to keep a close eye on the growth of private equity firms moving into the market.
Ann Coffey, chair of the All party Parliamentary Group on Runaway and Missing Children, who published a hard-hitting report on care homes last month, said:“The level of these out of area placements has become so serious that it is effectively becoming a form of export trade in children between the English regions.”
Enver Solomon, director of policy at the Children’s Society, said: “It has almost been as though these are pieces on a chessboard to be moved around and found a place without decisions taken primarily on what is best for the child”
Debbie Jones, president of Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: “There can be good reasons for placing a child away from home, even a long distance away, where they are at risk from family or others in their local community and local authorities must retain this flexibility where it is needed.
“It is important to note that many local authorities are reliant wholly or in part of a market of private providers to supply placements in residential children’s homes.
“This can offer flexibility to meet the needs of individual children, but we believe there needs to be a review of the risks of the dominance of private, profit-making providers on the stability, quality and cost of providing these placements.”
A spokeswoman for Ofsted said: “As an independent inspectorate, we keep all our inspection activity under continuous review. As a result, in April 2012 we further revised the criteria against which inspectors make their judgements, significantly raising the bar.
“The figures showing inspection judgments for the first quarter of 2012/13 will be published in September.
“We are unable to speculate on unpublished data but of course we expect the tougher criteria we have introduced to have a significant impact on the pattern of judgments.”
Tragic girl aged 13 in two years of sex hell – The SUN
GEORGIA was sexually exploited from the age of 13 to 15 while living in a council care home.
She was regularly abducted for anything from two to eight days at a time and held without access to food, water or washing facilities.
Men would be brought to the place where she was held and she would be serially raped before eventually being released.
The tragic teenager would return to the care home hungry, filthy and covered in sores.
But nobody ever tried to talk to her about where she was going or what had been happening to her.
Georgia has now been diagnosed with a serious mental health condition.
Sex, drink and drugs: A teenager’s life in care
Julie, not her real name, was placed in care at the age of 11, where she remained until she was 18, staying in a combination of foster homes and children’s homes. Now 19, she has spoken to Newsnight about her experiences of sexual exploitation.
I started running away because I didn’t want to go home. If it was in the children’s home I didn’t want to go back because of the staff or the kids, or I just wanted to stay out. If it was in foster care I just didn’t want to be in the home because it wasn’t my home.
One night, when I was 14, me and my friend were out. She was talking to this lad – they were friends, but I didn’t like him.
I wanted to go home because it was late, but she was pulling my arm saying, “Stay out, stay out. I’m not staying out if you don’t stay out” and stuff like that. And then because he wanted her to stay out, I got pulled along too.
He sneaked us into his house and they made me sleep or whatever on the wooden floor while they were doing things. If I moved he’d hit me and then start swearing, because he’d sneaked us in and you could hear his mum downstairs. I wanted to go down and tell his mum, but I couldn’t.
He did stuff to me, like have sex and stuff, and was hitting me and swearing at me.
Then in the morning he sneaked us back out of the house so his mum didn’t know I’d been up there on the floor and didn’t want to be there.
I got a phone call off someone from social services and asked them to pick me up, and they came straight away. When we got back I told the police and they gave him a caution or something saying that he wasn’t allowed to come near me.
When I look back now all my friend ever did was get me in trouble with different things.
When you’re younger and you’re in care, you go out and if people offeryou alcohol and stuff you just go along with it really. You’re probably just gullible.
One time she took me to this guy’s house and we ended up drinking alcohol and she had some cannabis and we ended up doing that.
She was probably the only person that would stop out all night with me, so that’s why I went out with her probably.
There were times where we slept in this little builder’s box thing on a field. It was just a plastic roof and it didn’t have a floor. And we slept in a tent on a primary school field one time. Just wherever, really.
We knew one guy in a houseshare of three people. He was around a year older than me and he was fine, I didn’t have a problem with him.
And there was another boy – well, he wasn’t a boy, he was about 19 at the time – and he was the guy that me and my friend got alcohol and stuff off.
One time he was hanging out of his window and started saying, “Come up here, come up here, I’ll give you a beer and stuff.” So anyway, me being stupid, I went and then he did stuff to me.
Afterwards he started screaming, “Get out, get out of my flat,” so I left. By this time I was really drunk, like couldn’t walk drunk.
As I came out of the flat into the corridor there were two men. I later found out they were 25. I think they were a bit drunk as well and it was really late, so I couldn’t go home or if I went out the door then the police would be there.
I went back into the flat with them, into the shared living room and I fell on the settee and couldn’t get up. The first guy was still screaming, “Get her out, get her out,” but this other one said, “No, she’s going to stay with me for the night.”
He took me in his bedroom and then he did stuff as well. He was 25 and I was 14. So yeah, that was another bad time.
They probably just see a young girl and think she’s not with her mum and dad, because they don’t care and she’s in care, so of course she’s going to come and stay at mine. They pour a bit of alcohol in you and then you’re legless.
And you can’t do anything and then they’ll just get what they want then.