Timpson: ‘Abusers exploit weaknesses in residential child care system’

Minister warns abusers are able to exploit gaps in information and weaknesses in the system, saying a new data pack on children's homes should help local authorities make better choices

An ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mentality to placements for children in care is leaving young people at greater risk of sexual exploitation, the children’s minister has warned.

Speaking at a conference this week, Edward Timpson said sexual abusers are benefiting from “gaps in information” and “exploiting weaknesses” in the residential child care system.

He blamed an ‘out of sight out of mind’ culture in local authorities, saying this leaves too many children placed in homes miles from their local community.

“Good homes provide young people, for whom other placements aren’t suitable, with just the intensive, caring professional help and stability they need,” he said.

“But we know there are some homes where support for children and security are poor. Which are located in parts of the country with meagre facilities and, worse still, where there are disproportionately large numbers of sex offenders often synonymous with organised criminal activity.”

His comments follow a difficult period for children’s homes, which faced renewed scrutiny after it emerged one of the victims in the Rochdale abuse case had been living in one of the borough’s care homes. Following the high profile case, Tim Loughton, then children’s minister, ordered a review of residential child care.

Timpson used his speech this week to set out steps the government is taking to “reform” residential care.

As well as enabling Ofsted to share information on the location of children’s homes, Timpson said the government is “urgently” consulting on further changes to ensure local authorities take more factors into consideration when placing children a significant distance from their friends and family.

He said the changes will ensure there is “rigorous independent scrutiny of the quality of care in each home”, and clarify the responsibilities of the young person’s local authority, the children’s home and the council in which the home is located. “So there’s a real, shared responsibility for safeguarding the child,” he said.

Ministers are also proposing to reform the qualifications framework for people working in children’s homes.

A revised data pack on residential care, due this summer, is expected to include detailed information about children’s homes by council and region. “This should go some way towards helping local authorities make much better choices,” Timpson said.

Timpson also announced that Martin Narey, previously ministerial adviser on adoption, has been given a wider government role.

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