MP says Lancashire County Council ‘brushed off’ missing children issues
THE former Government minister behind a report exposing the “scandal” of children missing from council care and at risk from sexual predators has accused Lancashire County Council of ignoring its own report highlighting the problem.
Anne Coffey chaired a major Parliamentary investigation which said youngsters on the run from local authority homes are targeted for sexual abuse.
The Stockport MP said a report from Lancashire’s own scrutiny committee, Who Cares, highlighting the same problems was ignored by the authority, responsible for such children in Burnley, Pendle, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley.
The Parliamentarians’ investigation said placing youngsters far from home encouraged absconding, increasing the risk of sexual abuse.
The findings come after nine men in Rochdale were convicted of sexually exploiting young girls, including one in care and the conviction of a 26-year-old Burnley man for having sex with a 14-year-old who was living in a Lancashire childrens’ home.
Ms Coffey said: “There is a scandal going on in England involving children missing from care. We know that dangerous predators are exploiting large gaps in the system and targeting children.
“We read a very good report from the Lancashire County Council’s scrutiny committee last September which identified most of the issues we highlight.
“Disappointingly this report was brushed off and never responded to."
Susie Charles, Lancashire children and schools cabinet member, said: “We take the safety of children placed away from their home counties very seriously.
“The scrutiny committee looked into this subject in great detail.
“We have accepted many recommendations that can be implemented locally and are currently addressing this issue as part of a wider project looking at safeguarding and child protection.”
Blackburn’s children's services boss Maureen Bateson welcomed the national report promising to build on work including the borough’s Engage team working with runaways.
Coun Bateson said: “We welcome the spotlight being shone on this particular priority. At Blackburn with Darwen we have worked hard to develop robust procedures.
"All children who go missing are given an interview to find out any underlying causes and run regular sessions on how to prevent runaways and pick up on any warning signs.”