'No mercy' for those who fail to protect children, says Ann Coffey

Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for runaway and missing children and adults wants a care system which is 'fit for purpose'

People charged with protecting children should be shown “no mercy” if they fail to do their job, warns Ann Coffey, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for runaway and missing children and adults.

Writing exclusively in The Independent on Sunday, the MP cites the recent scandal of several children in care in Oxfordshire, who were tortured and raped by a gang of men “under the noses” of the authorities who showed an “almost wilful blindness”.

The seven men convicted in the Oxford case were sentenced last week, with five being given life sentences.

Their six victims were aged between 11 and 15 when the abuse took place, when they were “supposedly in the safekeeping of the local authority,” says Ms Coffey.

Far from looking after children, the care system has often failed them by placing them in unsafe areas, “into children’s homes targeted by sexual predators seeking to exploit the vulnerability of children living there.”

And Ms Coffey accuses those charged with the care of vulnerable children having “turned a blind eye to signs of abuse and exploitation” or even blaming children for what happened to them.

The girls in the Oxford case were repeatedly abused from 2004 to 2012 despite regularly going missing and reporting abuse to police as far back as 2006.

And police officers and social workers face further scrutiny from a serious case review now underway.

Thames Valley Police could face investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) once the review has been concluded. The IPCC has told the force that “should any conduct matters be identified arising from that review then a referral should be made,” said a spokesperson for the complaints body.

The tragic truth of what happened in Oxford is that it is part of a pattern seen in other parts of the country, according to Matthew Reed, chief executive, The Children’s Society. “Children – often in care, often going missing – are being abused over many years and local agencies are repeatedly missing chances to put an end to the abuse.”

He added that children are dismissed as “a nuisance” or seen as “promiscuous” rather than “victims trapped in exploitative relationships and abuse.”

In response to mounting concerns for the safety of vulnerable children, highlighted by cases such as Oxford, the Government will hold a number of public events this summer to discuss new proposals to protect children in care – including the thousands who go missing and are at risk of abuse each year.

There have been “unacceptable failings” in children’s residential care, admitted Edward Timpson, Children and Families Minister, last week. He attacked an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind culture and poor decision making,” in the care system, and announced a series of reforms which will “will remove the secrecy which has shrouded residential care for too many years.”

The proposals would see greater scrutiny of children’s homes, force them to work more closely with police and councils to prevent children going missing, and allow councils to step in when children are at risk.

Ofsted is to be given more powers to enable a tougher line to be taken – under the proposals children’s homes found wanting will be closed down unless they improve within a set period of time. And from September the education watchdog will inspect local authorities on how they are meeting the statutory requirements to reduce the number of children who go missing from care.

Ms Coffey welcomed the move but warned that missing children and those in care will “continue to be let down” unless there is “proper oversight and accountability.” Only strong leadership from the government with local commitment, will result in a care system which is “fit for purpose,” said the MP.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor