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Sex abuse alert over 126 kids in East Lancashire care homes
LANCASHIRE social services were alerted to 126 suspected cases of sexual exploitation of children who were living in care homes in the county over the last five years.
The shock figure emerged as the government announced new measures to tackle perverts and gangs grooming ‘looked after’ youngsters following the Rochdale abuse scandal.
The 126 cases were recorded by the county’s child safeguarding unit from the 105 private and 11 county-run residential children’s homes in Lancashire.
Most resulted in no action but eight cases in county homes since 2009 were sufficiently serious to be reported to national regulator Ofsted.
There are no such figures available for the private homes.
The government moves come after calls for action in the wake of the jailing of nine men involved in a child sex grooming ring in Rochdale.
Last month Anne Coffey, who chaired a Parliamentary investigation into the sexual exploitation of thousands of children missing from council care criticised the county for ignoring its own report on the problem.
Children’s minister Tim Loughton promised action amidst evidence that children were sent to the North because low property prices enabled operators to save money.
Last night Lancashire’s lead member for ‘looked after children’ Tony Winder, county councillor for Rossendale North, revealed that in 2007/08, 12 cases in all homes in Lancashire were reported to the safeguarding unit, in 2008/09 20, in 2009/10 32, in 2010/2011 46, in 2011/2012 16.
The county notified Ofsted of two cases in county homes warranting further action in 2009, three in 2010, three in 2011 and none yet in 2012.
County Coun Winder said: “We welcome the current debate about the safety of these vulnerable children.
“Here in Lancashire we work very closely with partner agencies, including the police, to protect vulnerable children and to prevent them from becoming victims of sexual exploitation.
"In terms of our own looked-after children, the vast majority are accommodated within Lancashire, or in a neighbouring authority close to where they live.
“More than three-quarters are placed in foster homes.
“For those who need the support of a more structured environment, our residential children’s homes – most of which are rated outstanding or good by Ofsted – offer a real home from home.”
Mr Loughton said new regulations will make it harder to place children outside their home boroughs, will streamline data on youngsters missing from care, and will see a wide-ranging review of the quality of children’s homes.
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