Yarl's Wood staff criticised over sex case

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Social workers have come under fire for failing to properly investigate cases of two five-year-old boys found engaging in sexual activity at Yarl's Wood detention centre.

An independent review by Bedford and Central Bedfordshire'a Safeguarding Children boards said that social workers failed to act appropriately after two five-year-olds were allegedly found engaging in sexual activity involving an older child aged 11 or 15 in September 2009.

The report said the case highlighted a gap in the regulation of services to children in immigration detention. "None of the agencies involved ... gave adequate weight to the inherent vulnerability of children in detention, nor to the issues of diversity affecting these children and their families," the report said.

The report also issued a assessment of the police, the UK Borders Agency and Serco, the body that runs Yarl's Wood, saying that the arrangements to keep children safe were "ultimately ineffective and relied too heavily on the input and decisions of other agencies".

More than 1,000 children a year are held in detention centres. The Government has pledged to end the practice this year.