Children missing from Haringey care homes at risk of sexual exploitation
Dozens of vulnerable children are going missing from care in Haringey putting them at risk of sexual exploitation and gangs.
An investigation into missing children in care has revealed the borough had the highest number of runaways in London in the year ending August 2010, with 255 youngsters missing from children’s or foster homes.
The figure dropped to 41 the following year – the tenth highest in London – after the council changed the way it categorised missing people. But councillors and experts warned under reporting could mean the figure is far higher.
Crouch End councillor Dave Winskill, the Liberal Democrat scrutiny chief, said: “These children come from very damaged backgrounds and they are much more vulnerable and open to suggestions from malignant influences.
“They are at danger of getting involved with drugs, drink and gang culture, violence and sexual exploitation.”
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The report, Children Missing From Care And From Home, an in-house review by Haringey Council, warned the high turnover of social workers in Haringey meant that vulnerable children missed out on forming meaningful relationships with them.
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It stated: “As soon as the social worker changed the relationship was lost. After two or three changes in social workers, young people could stop bothering to engage.”
Excessive case loads and “burnout” meant that even when youngsters went missing, it was rare that their social worker was in touch with the foster or care home the following day.
It recommended carers receive more support and that police and the council work more closely and share information.
The report comes as pressure mounts nationally for greater support to be given to looked after children, as MPs warned of serious weaknesses in the care system.
A cross party government report released on Monday (June 18) found that the widespread practice of placing children in homes far from where they grew up encouraged them to run away.
Commenting on this, chief executive of The Children’s Society, Matthew Reed said: “It is unacceptable that some of this country’s most vulnerable children are being completely let down by the very systems that should be there to protect them from these shocking crimes.
“It is critical that all areas of the country have a safety net in place, so that every time a child goes missing from care they are protected from sexual exploitation, trafficking and other shocking crimes.”
A council spokeswoman said an action plan based on the review’s findings will be drawn up next month.
She said: “Protecting children and young people – particularly those who we know are vulnerable like children in care – underpins every aspect of our children’s services.
“The number of children and young people missing from care or from home recently reduced by two thirds over a 14 month period, but we are committed to reducing this figure further.”