Sexual exploitation of children in Rotherham set to be discussed by MPs

Children were sexually abused in Rotherham while those in authority failed to act
Children were sexually abused in Rotherham while those in authority failed to act

Rotherham's child sexual exploitation scandal is set to be discussed by MPs today in a debate about children going missing from homes and the link with abuse.

Ministers have been accused of breaking their promise to cut the numbers of children being 'farmed out' to children's homes huge distances from where they were brought up and live.

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Labour MP Ann Coffey will use a parliamentary debate today to highlight evidence that a 'sent-away generation' is in danger of falling prey to paedophiles and drugs gangs.

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Despite a Government pledge to clamp down on so-called out-of-borough placements, Ms Coffey says there has been a 64 per cent rise nationally in the number of children being sent to live away between 2012 and 2017.

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There has also been a huge increase in the number of sent-away children going missing, with the number of incidents more than doubling to almost 10,000 a year.

Ms Coffey said: "The Government promised to curb the growing practice of farming out children to homes that are sometimes 100 miles from where they live.

"Shockingly, the rise has not stopped at all, but has got worse. Despite the pledge, record numbers of children are being sent away to places where they are more vulnerable to exploitation.

"These children are running away at a faster rate and are being targeted and preyed upon by paedophiles and criminals who know they are vulnerable.

"The farming out of children to areas where they have no friends or family circles or local social workers has created a perfect storm where it is increasingly difficult to protect children."

In a debate in Westminster Hall today, Ms Coffey will highlight links between children going missing and sexual exploitation, as was seen with the Rotherham scandal, where 1,400 vulnerable children were abused by men of predominantly Pakistani heritage between 1997 and 2013 while those in authority failed to act.

Ms Coffey will also say the private sector marketplace in social care is 'catastrophically failing children' and pushing up the prices charged to local authorities, with some homes now charging up to £5,000 a week per child.

Figures obtained by Ms Coffey from the Department for Education show the number of children placed in homes out of their borough has risen from 2,250 in 2012 to 3,680 in March 2017.

There were 9,910 incidents of children going from missing from these placements last year, compared to 4,380 in 2015, according to figures from the department.

A Department for Education spokesman said: "Children in care are some of the most vulnerable people in society and it's essential that their best interests are at the centre of all decision making.

"Local authorities have a statutory duty to make sure that placements meet the needs of children in their care and this includes the location of the placement.

"We are updating our Missing Children and Adults Strategy which for the first time will include a strategy to improve the current response to missing people.

"We have also strengthened care planning and children's homes regulation requiring all homes to have a clear policy for preventing children from going missing."