Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Study wants children's homes report

The report recommends that more weighting should be given to the management of missing incidents in Ofsted's inspections

An independent investigation is needed into England's children's homes which are failing to manage and protect youngsters who run away or go missing, MPs and peers have said.

The report by parliamentarians also called for urgent action to prevent children being sent to live in areas up to hundreds of miles from their family, which is believed to be a major factor in causing some of them to run away.

Labour MP Ann Coffey, chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) for runaway and missing children and adults, said the issue of children who go missing from care was a "scandal".

As well as the investigation and urgent action on "out of borough placements", the joint report by two APPGs calls for a scorecard system to rate local authorities, an end to barriers which prevent police knowing the location of children's homes and a new system for reporting runaways from care.

The report recommends that more weighting should be given to the management of missing incidents in Ofsted's inspections.

The inquiry also highlights a lack of training for professionals. One practitioner told the inquiry: "You can have someone looking after a young person who, the day before, their experience may have been working at a deli counter in Asda."

The joint report by Ms Coffey's group and the APPG for looked after children and care leavers follows the jailing of a sex abuse ring in Rochdale which preyed on vulnerable girls. Only one of the girls was in care at the time of the abuse but all were said to have been known to social services at some point in their childhood.

Ms Coffey said: "There is a scandal going on in England involving children missing from care and until recent cases of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale and other places put the spotlight on this issue, it was pretty much going unnoticed.

"This inquiry has revealed the widespread concern that what we have in place at the moment falls dramatically short of what is needed to protect some of society's most vulnerable children.

"We know that dangerous predators are exploiting large gaps in the system and targeting children. Our inquiry has demonstrated how the system is far from fit for purpose and needs an urgent rethink to address these failings."

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