Inspectors will police state care homes

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The Independent Online
INSPECTORS ARE to be authorised to check on standards of care in state homes for young people and the elderly, and will have powers to close homes, according to tough new guidelines published by the Government today.

In a White Paper on social services, the Government is proposing to introduce regional commissions to take over the inspection of homes from local authorities. These commissions will enforce standards of care in all residential homes.

The Government's proposed measures are intended to address continued failure to detect cruelty in care homes.

The new standards come after three people were charged over allegations of neglect at an Essex care home for children and vulnerable adults. The man and two women, who have been bailed to appear before Chelmsford magistrates in March, were among five people arrested last week as part of an inquiry at the Old Convent, Bicknacre, near Chelmsford.

To coincide with today's White Paper, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has released a report accusing child protection agencies of failing children in their care because of poor communication.

According to the NSPCC, most cases of organised child abuse are only uncovered by accident because not enough information is shared by those whose job it is to protect children.

The charity is calling for changes in the way paedophile rings are investigated. The NSPCC guide calls for the introduction of specialist intelligence gathering techniques and joint investigations. Looking at 20 cases involving paedophile rings in London, it found that many investigations were only initiated after chance sharing of crucial long-standing information by different agencies, disclosure by an abuse victim apprehended while committing a non-sexual offence or a complaint made by one abuser against another.

Meanwhile, a high proportion of investigations over months and sometimes years failed to lead to the conviction of abusers. Very few were triggered by a straightforward report from a victim or witness. And it was not uncommon for related information to be stored in different files.

Cases with multiple victims showed that peer group pressure - fuelled by fear of retribution - deterred children from exposing their abusers. If family members were involved, victims expressed guilt at having their relatives imprisoned and arrested. Paedophiles helped each other by intimidating witnesses or destroying corroborative evidence.

Organised abusers also targeted ethnic minority families with a poor grasp of English to reduce the chance of discovery.

The NSPCC recommends that there should be systematic sharing of information on all reported child sexual abuse cases and investigations should be run jointly by the police, social services and the charity.

Jim Harding, director of the the NSPCC, said: "We all need guidance on this pressing issue. We have to provide a more organised response to organised abuse."

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