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Any Other Reason
May 18, 2012 permalink
John Hemming points out that children leaving care are not even counted, at least in public reports. Under reason for leaving care a large portion are grouped in the meaningless category "any other reason".
9 HELD IN CHILD SEX GROOMING SCANDAL
NINE men have been arrested in connection with a suspected second child grooming gang in Rochdale.
The girl is said to be one of 47 questioned by police in relation to an earlier child sexual exploitation ring in the town.
That case was concluded on Wednesday when nine Asian men received jail sentences of between four and 19 years for sexual offences against five young white teenagers, one of whom was in council care.
Greater Manchester Police said all of the men in the latest batch of arrests on Friday had been bailed. They are aged between 24 and 38.
The arrests came as one MP warned last night that a “dreadfully complacent” attitude on the part of the Government meant Rochdale could just be the tip of the iceberg.
John Hemming, an expert in statistics, said hundreds of vulnerable children who had been in local authority care might have been abducted and trafficked by child grooming gangs.
He said there was a black hole in figures provided for Whitehall every year by local authorities. Social services are required to provide returns giving the number of children in council care and the reasons why they leave care.
Categories in the returns include “placed for adoption”, “died” or “returned to family”. However, significant numbers are falling into a catch-all box labelled “any other reason”.
Mr Hemming, a Lib Dem MP who chairs the Justice for Families campaign, said such a broad category can prevent officials from sounding alerts.
He analysed figures for 2011 and found that of the 25,000 children who left care last year, 5,950 were listed in the “other reasons” category.
Most of these, 4,360, were aged between 16 and 18, Mr Hemming pointed out, while 630 were 10 to 15-year-olds. He said he was “not really happy about teenagers leaving care” without any clear idea about what is happening to them.
He added: “Have they run away, are they being abducted? With the 10 to 15-year-olds there is a good chance some are being trafficked and this could be the case with the younger ones.
“They are happy to count the money and make sure they know where the money is, but they are unwilling to check where the children are.”
However, when Mr Hemming asked Education Minister Tim Loughton whether he would reform the statistics to provide more details for the “other reasons” category, he was told it would be too bureaucratic. Before last week’s details of the Rochdale scandal emerged, Mr Loughton told the House of Commons: “The Department for Education has no plans to expand the codes under which local authorities provide statistical returns on children missing from care.
“This will lead to an unnecessary increase in reporting requirements. It is the responsibility of local authorities to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children in care and they will hold more detailed information on each child who has gone missing from their care.”
However, after the outcry over Rochdale Mr Loughton did highlight the importance of statistics and called for more consistency between the data collected by police and local authorities.
A spokesman for the Department for Education said: “There is clear statutory guidance for children’s homes.
“They must have strong procedures in place to protect and prevent young people from running away from care.
“In light of Rochdale, we will look at this again.”
Source: Daily Express (UK)