'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
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices