MPs will today launch a Parliamentary inquiry into the record numbers of children who go missing after being ‘farmed out’ to live in children’s homes miles away.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults is concerned that there is growing evidence that a ‘sent away generation’ of vulnerable youngsters are in danger of falling prey to paedophiles and drugs gangs.
One thousand more individual children in out of area placements have gone missing from children’s homes since 2015, according to new Department for Education figures released today by Ann Coffey MP, who will chair the inquiry.
This has more than doubled from 990 in 2015 to 1,990 in 2018 and compares to a 31 per cent increase for children who go missing from children’s homes within their own borough.
This trend is confirmed in Ms Coffey’s own area of Stockport where 73 per cent of children reported missing from local children’s homes last year were placed out of area – 81 out of 110 missing children, according to statistics provided to the MP by Greater Manchester Police.
The inquiry will focus on the risks faced by children and young people who go missing from out of area placements and how their safety can be ensured.
Evidence suggests that being uprooted and placed a long way from family, friends and social workers leaves children isolated and is often a factor that causes them to run away.
They become ‘sitting ducks’ and are targeted and groomed for sexual and criminal exploitation, including being coerced into selling Class A drugs crack cocaine and heroin in ‘County Lines’ operations.
Ms Coffey has also written to all 43 police chief constables to ask for their observations about the link between out of area placements and children going missing and being targeted for sexual and criminal exploitation, especially ‘County Lines’.
In 2012, the APPG conducted a parliamentary inquiry into children missing from care and raised concerns about the number of children in cross-boundary placements.
The Government agreed to introduce measures in 2013 to reduce numbers. But despite this commitment, the situation has got worse and the number of ‘sent away’ children has increased to record levels. Latest figures show that*:
The APPG is today calling for evidence from individuals, organisations and children who have been sent faraway places.
Ann Coffey, the chair of the APPG and the inquiry, said:
“It shames us all that thousands of vulnerable children continue to be farmed out to live miles and miles away from home despite a government promise to clampdown on numbers.
“Isolated and alone without family, friends or local social workers to help protect them, they become sitting ducks for those who wish to prey on them. They are targeted by paedophiles and drugs gangs and can become trapped in a brutal world.
“The children’s homes system is broken. It is catastrophically failing children and young people and is instead working in the interest of private providers.
“Most children’s homes are bunched into three regions of the country with 25 per cent in the North West alone. Local authorities have their hands tied with little choice about where children should be placed because of the uneven distribution of children’s homes.
“This is a shocking state of affairs.”
Sam Royston, Director and Policy and Research at The Children’s Society, said:
“Children should only be placed away from their home area if it is in their best interests, but too often this is happening simply because local placements are unavailable.
“We are deeply concerned that the number of children being placed out of their home area rises year on year and that many of them go missing repeatedly. Going missing is an indicator of risk and a cry for help from children.
“By supporting this APPG inquiry we hope we can help identify viable, long-term solutions that will prevent an already vulnerable group of young people from being put at increased risk of harm through placements that should be keeping them safe.”
If you would like to contribute to the inquiry, the evidence is now being gathered until April 26th. More information is available here.
I am delighted that the Government has announced a root and branch review into how the criminal justice system handles rape cases.
This is something I have been campaigning for. There is an ‘explosive cocktail’ of shockingly low charging and conviction rates at a time when record numbers of women – over 40,000 a year – are reporting rape.
The review is long overdue. We must not allow the clocks to be turned back to a situation where rape victims are frightened to speak out because they fear they will not get justice.
It is vital that the review thinks ‘outside the box’ and examines whether the jury system is the best way to deliver justice in rape cases because of the dominance of ‘rape myths’ in society, such as girls who drink or wear short skirts are ‘asking for it’.
This week I also released Freedom on Information figures which show that the number of rape cases charged by the Crown Prosecution Service has plummeted again and is getting worse each year. According to the statistics, there was a 24.6 per cent drop in charging rates from 61.9 per cent in 2013/2014 to 37.3 per cent by September 2018.
These new figures show once again that the justice system is not working for rape victims as fewer and fewer men accused of rape are being charged.
The obvious conclusion is that it appears that because juries are reluctant to find young men guilty of rape that the CPS are scared and reluctant to prosecute and the police are scared and reluctant to refer cases forward to the CPS.
The loser is the rape victim. They feel they have been denied access to justice.
See more in the Guardian here – https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/06/prosecution-rate-in-england-and-wales-falls-to-five-year-low?fbclid=IwAR2v_Q4oyTtay5NeUe0WNd5ZjYNJA6DKl833xkeF5Rl9xEAiHrsreBkg0zs
It was a privilege and an honour to have been elected as your MP in 1992. Over the years I have met many of you first as children on visits to schools and then as parents yourselves.
Thank you so much for your letters of support following my announcement that after 41 years I was resigning from the Labour Party. I am sorry for the distress I have caused colleagues in the local party. This was not a decision I took lightly.
My values have not changed and I and the excellent and committed people who work for me will continue to help and support you with your problems.
And I will continue to represent you in the same way I have done for the last 27 years as an MP and before that as a local councillor.
You voted to remain in Europe in the referendum recognising the value of us being part of a single market. I have voted in parliament for those options that could deliver the best possible economic deal for us. I will continue to do so. Remaining in the EU would have given us the best deal. We rely on a sound economy to fund our public services. We need jobs, housing, first class health provision and investment in our children’s education.
From a recent survey of constituents it was clear that young people see their future in Europe and are upset that what was on offer to older generations is no longer there for them. Their view of the world is unlimited by national boundaries. This is the impact of the world wide web.
Brexit will change Britain in a way we cannot imagine for future generations. When I have visited schools I have been very impressed by the knowledge, skills and enthusiasm of our children. They are a credit to their teachers and parents. They will be our asset in the Britain to come .