The BBC News revealed that young people as young as 11 years old, were abused or exploited after they went missing from unregulated homes, known as semi-independent or supported accommodation.
Children who are in care are often placed in unregulated homes in England and Wales. The report revealed that these children often suffer from “organised abuse” whilst they are at the unregulated homes.
The number of children that have gone missing from the unregulated homes has doubled in the last three years. Figures from 85 councils show that the number of young children that went missing was 4,656 times in 2015/6 and increased to 10,074 in 2018/9. About one in six missing children in 2019 were already recognised as being at risk from child sexual exploitation. The report also reveals that police forces had to spend at least £50 million pounds trying to locate the missing children.
The charity Missing People have said “the government must urgently address the lack of quality placements.” The Department of education that the Councils had a duty to ensure that the vulnerable children were provided with secure accommodation.
Some of the victims are faced with criminal exploitation also. One victim describes how he was placed 200 miles away from his family and hometown and then started to get involved and work for drug gangs, as his mother died after 3 months of being moved. His life was so terrible that he even tried to commit suicide twice. He describes how he was kidnapped from outside the home and moved around the company to help run the “county lines” drug dealing. “All the money I was making was being used to get home to see my family. The care system, social services and government made me feel like I didn’t want to be around no more. I wanted to see my mum for the last time and get out of this world where no-one cares about me.”
Josie Allan from Missing people has urged that the government “urgently” needs to tackle the situation of the lack of safe and appropriate placements. She said: “any child who goes missing is at risk of serious harm and this only increases if they are placed in situations where they go missing more often. We are seriously concerned about the number of children being placed a long way from home, in inappropriate or unsafe accommodation.”
Another 16 year old victim described how that homes were often surrounded by drugs and violence. “The whole road was a drug hotspot, surrounded by crackheads all day long. You want to come home to a safe place. If I say no to these people they’re going to find (someone else) in a care home who’s going to do it – it’s not a problem for them.”
Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said that even though regulation was a priority, there were other factors that needed to be considered.
“Of course, the government needs to regulate semi-independent accommodation. This alone though is not sufficient. The government must recruit and retain more social workers, so that care leavers can benefit from enhanced support.”
The Department for Education in England have declined to be interviewed by the BBC but have said “that councils had a legal duty to make sure accommodation for these children was suitable. It is unacceptable for any child to be placed in provision that does not meet their needs, for any period of time. Local authorities are held accountable for the care they provide to vulnerable children by Ofsted.”
If you have been a victim of abuse at any unregulated homes or semi-independent accommodation then the BBC would like you to make contact with them, and also include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a journalist, by the following methods:
If you have been a victim of child abuse and would like to speak to one of our specialist abuse lawyers in confidence, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can advise you on the available options for pursuing a civil damages claim. Jordans successfully represent and secure compensation for numerous victims of abuse and are experts in overcoming the particular challenges that arise in these sensitive cases. Our abuse team can be contacted on 0800 9555 094 or 0330 300 1103.