Ann Coffey

Monthly Archives: March 2016

Dementia Red Tape Must Be Eased Now


Ann Coffey MP has put forward proposals to ease the financial burden on councils who are engulfed by red tape involving dementia sufferers.

Ms Coffey said that Deprivation of Liberty safeguard assessments have turned into an ‘expensive bureaucratic nightmare’ for councils.

Stockport Council alone will spend £1.2 million this year on assessments to ensure dementia sufferers who live in care homes are not being inappropriately restrained.

Ms Coffey suggested in the Commons today that it would help councils save some money immediately if the government scrapped the need to reassess DoLS on every person every single year and to make a reassessment every time an elderly person leaves a care home to go into hospital.

Her suggestions were received positively by Alistair Burt, the Health Minister, who said he was prepared to “look at any suggestions she has to ease the situation practically.”

Nationally local authorities have seen DoLS caseloads rise more than tenfold in the year after a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 2014 triggered a surge in referrals.

The Supreme Court judgement effectively lowered the threshold for what constitutes deprivation of liberty in care and significantly increased the number of people requiring assessment for protection under the DoLs scheme.

Ms Coffey has been leading a campaign to scrap the costly DoLS system and the Law Commission is currently reviewing how to tackle the problem.

But Ms Coffey said that any proposals from the Law Commission would take two years to implement and urged the minister to do something now to ease the situation in the meantime.

She said at Commons Health question time:

“It is costing Stockport Council £1.2 million this year for Deprivation of Liberty assessments as a result of the Cheshire West judgement.

Not one single penny of that is providing social care.

“This is unsustainable at a time when social care budgets are under intense pressure. Something needs to be done now. We cannot wait for the Law Commission.

“As a small step forward – would the minster consider scrapping costly automatic annual reassessments and the necessity to reassess every time an elderly person leaves a care home to go into hospital?”

Mr Burt said: “I will happily look at anything that might assist us. I will look at any suggestions she has to ease the situation practically”.


Scrap rules for recording absent children after damning HMIC report

23rd March 2016 

Ann Coffey  MP has called for the controversial new police system of recording missing children to be abolished after a damning report from HMIC published today. (Wednesday)

Ms Coffey, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, welcomed the HMIC report on the police response to missing and absent children.

She said: “It is shocking that there are such unacceptable inconsistencies between and within police forces in their approach to missing children. Too many children are being left at risk. Children deserve the same protection wherever they live.”

The HMIC report criticised the new ‘absent’ and ‘missing’ categories introduced by the police in 2013, under which only people reported missing get an immediate police response. It found ‘serious inconsistencies in the way that forces use the ‘missing’ and ‘absent’ categories are leaving some children at risk of serious harm’.

The HMIC report recommended a review of the current approach to risk assessments of children who go missing with a particular focus on the categorisation of absent and missing children and on children who are repeatedly missing.

But Ms Coffey said that it was now time to go one step further and to scrap the system.

She said:

“HMIC found that children categorised as ‘absent’ received far less attention from the police, often not being looked for where circumstances may have escalated, or having any enquiries made as to why they left home.

“HMIC also found examples of missing children being incorrectly categorised  as ‘absent’, meaning that little action was taken to find and safeguard those potentially vulnerable children. There could be various reasons why this was happening, however on some occasions it was suspected that it was being used as a shortcut to manage demand”.

Ms Coffey raised concerns about the new absent category in her report published in 2014 ‘Real Voices – Child Sexual Exploitation Greater Manchester’.

She said: “I fear that the new system is open to error and that children who are regularly classed as ‘absent’ instead of ‘missing’ could be sexually or criminally exploited on a regular basis.

“There would be no police response because they are not recorded as missing. This means exploited young people can fall off the radar.

“I have also been concerned that the new absent category appears to be a way of screening out or camouflaging missing from home episodes. It seems the new police categories have not strengthened safeguarding and are leaving too many children exposed to risk.”

Ms Coffey also welcomed the idea of a new national data base to be used by all police forces to record all children missing at any one time to ensure a more consistent approach.

She said: “It is completely unacceptable that inconsistencies between and within police forces are leaving many missing children at risk.”

She pointed out that the annual Peel Report on the Greater Manchester Police by HMIC in February had said that the force responds well to missing and absent.

But added:

“But GMP cannot safeguard children in isolation and make risk assessments in isolation. This why they need information from parents and children’s services, particularly in the case of looked after children placed in the area by other local authorities. This would enable them to make a proper assessment of a missing child’s risk of coming to harm. This is why a national data base would be helpful”

Ms Coffey also welcomed the HMIC recommendations for making sure local authorities conduct return interviews on missing children.

“The return interviews should be used as part of a wider intelligence system to identify risks to children in that area and trends locally,” she said.

She also welcomed HMIC proposals to ensure that all local authorities are complying with rules to help safeguard children who are sent to live in children’s homes miles away from their home areas. These children often runaway and go missing.

Ms Coffey prioritised talking to children in her Real voices report and she welcomed the HMIC children’s voices report which gave children and young peoples’ perspective on the police role in safeguarding.

She said:

”It is great to see children’s voices being included in the report. The important thing now is how the experience of these children will drive forward the cultural and operation changes needed in police forces so that children are able to feel and believe that the police are there for them.”


Child drug mules hide heroin in Kinder Eggs

Press Release from Ann Coffey MP – 3rd March 2016

Children are being groomed to use Kinder Egg toys to hide heroin and crack cocaine inside their own bodies, an MP warned today.

Ann Coffey MP, the chair of the All Party Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, said it showed a ‘terrible disregard for children’s lives by urban gangs’.

Speaking during a backbench debate on gangs and youth violence, Ms Coffey called for the introduction of a new “Fagin Order” to stop adults grooming children to sell drugs.

She highlighted the phenomenon of ‘County Lines’, in which urban criminal gangs groom and coerce children and young people into selling Class A drugs many miles from home, often in quiet market and seaside towns.

The young people are set up with a mobile phone to deal drugs in a hotel or the flat of a vulnerable person.

Ms Coffey said children from Greater Manchester, groomed by criminal gangs, had been found selling drugs in places as far away as Devon.

Ms Coffey, who wrote the Real Voices report on Child Sexual Exploitation in Greater Manchester in 2014, said there were many similarities with the grooming of children for child sexual exploitation and for criminal drug dealing.

She told the Commons:

“These gang leaders are rather like modern day Fagins or Bill Sikes – hard men who groom youngsters and get them to do their dirty work.”

“Just as with children groomed for child sexual exploitation, we need to recognise that young people drawn into criminality and drug dealing have, in the first instance, been groomed and manipulated.

“This is the next big grooming scandal on the horizon.”

A practical way for disrupting the grooming of children and young people to sell drugs would be introduce a new civil order banning criminal adults from contacting a child, she said.

She added:

“Currently we have numerous civil orders available to the police to combat grooming for child sexual exploitation including Sexual Risk Orders, Sexual Harm Prevention Orders and Child Abduction Warning Notices.

“I would like to see the creation of similar orders to be used where children are being groomed by organised criminals and gangs to act as drug runners. They could be called Fagin orders.”

Ms Coffey has been told by the St Giles Trust, a charity that works with young people to stop them reoffending, that young people are sometimes encouraged to use the plastic container from Kinder Egg toys to hide drugs inside their own bodies – a serious risk to their health.

“It’s hard to imagine a more graphic metaphor for the perversion of childhood,” she said.

“The Trust have also told me about young girls dressed in school uniform being used to mule drugs because they are unlikely to be stopped and searched.”

The Home office have said have there have been examples of children as young as nine getting involved in gangs in London and the St Giles Trust have given at least one example of a child aged 12 being involved in ‘County Lines’ operations.

Ms Coffey said that increasingly there are stories about gangs setting up their own young members to be robbed en route, and then told that they must work off the debt by trafficking and selling drugs for free or giving sexual favours

She added:

“This is nothing more or less than slavery.

“The threat of CSE for girls involved in gangs is known, but the added factor of being trafficked to remote locations compounds their vulnerability.

“These young people are at risk of physical violence, sexual exploitation and emotional and physical abuse. This model of grooming involves both trafficking and modern slavery.

“We have to learn from the CSE scandals that have ruined so many lives. We cannot afford to make the same mistakes again of blaming young people and saying they’ve made their own bed or failing to ask the right questions or failing to respond even when we know what is going on.”


The full transcript of Ms Coffey’s speech can be seen here –