Up to 3,000 of the most vulnerable children in care are being failed by the system according to a damning report published Tuesday which said youngsters were being placed 100 miles from home and insufficiently protected from harm.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) looked at 60 cases across six regions of “vulnerable and potentially dangerous” children who are supervised by youth offending teams.
Of those, a fifth had become victims of crime while under supervision and over half had offended within the care environment, with children’s services neglecting to make basic checks when placing them into homes, HMIP said.
Chief inspector of probation Liz Calderbank said the “distressing” findings showed that around a third of children were shipped to care homes more than 100 miles away from home.
“The system is failing in terms of how it is trying to look after them,” she said.
Youth offending team workers were often under-qualified and their aspirations for the children “depressingly low”, Calderbank added.
“In the overwhelming majority of cases that we inspected, the outcomes for the children and young people were poor,” the report said.
“They were not always protected. Some had been assaulted or sexually exploited; some had themselves assaulted or exploited other children.”
HMIP inspectors, who conducted the review along with education watchdogs Ofsted and EstynIn, said that in two-thirds of cases children were being insufficiently protected due to poor planning and assessment.
In one case a 16-year-old boy had been moved 31 times since he went into care aged three.
In another, a 13-year-old girl, who had been the victim of sexual exploitation, had sex with a 15-year-old boy in a children’s home and sexual videos of her were later found on his mobile.
A Department for Education spokesman said three expert groups were drawing up plans to improve care in children’s homes.
“It is completely unacceptable that some local authorities and homes are letting down children by failing to act as a proper ‘parent’,” a spokesman said.
“Children placed far from their homes are extremely vulnerable. It is essential that local authorities responsible for them provide the vital support they need to keep them safe and well and to encourage their potential.
“Where children are offenders, this will include working with Youth Offending services to prevent any re-offending.”