Fail children in care at your peril

There should be no mercy for agencies that fall short

Share
Related Topics

In the sickening Oxford sex abuse case we heard that men groomed and abused vulnerable girls "under the noses" of the authorities who showed an "almost wilful blindness". The six victims had all been in care and were aged between 11 and 15 when the abuse took place. Victims repeatedly went missing, during which time they came into contact with their abusers. Three of the girls were reported missing from residential care on 254 occasions; one went missing 126 times in 15 months. Their nightmare torture and rape happened when they were supposedly in the safe-keeping of the local authority.

Life sentences sent out a strong message to abusers that in future they will be shown no mercy, and the police officer who led the inquiry, warned them: "Be under no doubt we are coming for you." This should apply to agencies that do not do their jobs properly.

When young people go into care because of serious neglect or abuse at home – the main reason – we expect them to get the support they need to overcome early traumatic experiences and flourish into successful, happy adults. But what I learnt last year through the parliamentary inquiry into children missing from care, supported by the Children's Society and the Who Cares? Trust – was that the care system was inadequate. Not only were local authorities failing children by moving them between care homes unable to meet their complex needs, they also placed children in areas that were not safe. This contributed to the estimated 10,000 a year who go missing from care in England.

It was shocking to hear of children placed many miles away from their neighbourhood and established support networks, sent to children's homes targeted by sexual predators seeking to exploit the vulnerability of children living there. Too many of these predators succeeded while professionals and agencies turned a blind eye. Children who went missing were regularly dismissed as a nuisance. Victims told us that they could not always understand the seriousness of things being done to them. Going missing from care was their cry for help, but a cry that went unheard.

This is unforgivable because all agencies know there is a strong link between going missing and the risk of sexual exploitation. The inquiry report called on the Government to improve the collection and sharing of data about children going missing from care, reduce the number of out-of-area placements, improve support and place the child's experiences at the centre of the system to enable professionals to identify children at risk earlier.

Last week, a year on from the inquiry, the Government published a number of proposals. These include better scrutiny of placements, data sharing on missing children and a multi-agency response, improved care planning, and better qualifications. But success rests at local level with councils, local safeguarding children's boards, the police, children's home staff, social workers and health workers.

How local authorities adopt these proposals will determine whether vulnerable children are protected. Next we need robust inspections by Ofsted on how local agencies safeguard children, particularly children who go missing.

Last year, a series of Freedom of Information requests by the Children's Society found that many local authorities were already seriously failing to follow statutory guidance for missing children in a number of areas. For no matter how well-intentioned reform is, without proper oversight and accountability, missing children and children in care will continue to be let down.

Only the combination of strong central government leadership with local commitment to act now to protect children in care can yield a care system fit for purpose. No mercy should be shown to those agencies who fail.

Ann Coffey MP chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

What on earth has happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions