Britain's most vulnerable children assaulted and sexually abused while shunted around care homes


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The Independent Online

Some of Britain’s most damaged and vulnerable children have been assaulted and sexually abused while being shunted around a series of care homes far from home, according to a damning report out today.

Child victims of abuse have been subjected to further attacks after being moved into the care system because of a lack of basic checks into their backgrounds and of potential abusers, according to the report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP).

The report looked into the treatment of up to 3,000 child offenders in care who have been moved far from home and discovered that many were being locked into a lifetime of crime and mental health problems because of their treatment.

In an examination of 60 cases in six areas across the country, inspectors learned of cases including:

* A 15-year-old boy found having sex in his room with a 13-year-old girl, who had been taken into care owing to sexual exploitation. Sexual videos of her were found on his phone.

* A Welsh boy, removed from his parents because of their heroin addiction, went missing 37 times in four months after being moved to England far from his mother.

* One 16-year-old boy was moved 31 times after being taken into care at the age of three, including one placement that lasted less than 24 hours.

Chief inspector of probation Liz Calderbank said that she was shocked by the findings and said that shipping children more than 50 miles from home made offending inevitable in some cases. “The system is failing in terms of how it trying to look after them,” she said.

Ten local authorities had no children’s homes in their areas. In part because of financial pressures, a third of children were placed more than 100 miles away from home and nearly two-thirds were placed 50 miles away, HMIP found. Regulations require local authorities to allow the child to live near their home, as far as reasonably practicable, the report said.

One 16-year-old told inspectors: “No one truly cares about me. They get paid to care but they don’t really. If they did they would stop moving me about and understand me instead of talking about what my needs are.”

A fifth of the children had themselves been a victim of crime while under supervision of Youth Offending Teams and just over half the children inspected had offended within the care system.

“These children and young people are, in many cases, picked up in later life by either the

criminal justice system or mental health services,” the report found. “It is clear from this inspection, that for many, their backgrounds and experiences in care meant that they were ill-equipped to lead happy, law-abiding and productive lives as adults in the future.”

It said that the Department for Education should tighten regulations surrounding children placed outside their local authority areas and demanded better inspections.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is completely unacceptable that some local authorities and homes are letting down children by failing to act as a proper 'parent'.

”It is essential that local authorities responsible for them provide the vital support they need to keep them safe and well and to encourage their potential.”