The scandal of child care in the community makes for bleak reading, and thanks to determined investigative reporting, light is finally being shone into the darkest recesses of the worst of these care homes.
The catalogue of abuse and exploitation, both sexual and financial, is almost breathtaking, and frankly, incredible. Vulnerable children are routinely sent miles from friends and family, with Rochdale in Greater Manchester the most favoured destination. Astonishingly, Rochdale has a total of 47 care homes, four more than the 14 inner London boroughs combined.
The profit motive is an equal disgrace. Many of these care homes are privately owned and operated, and by all accounts, making obscene sums of money out of the misery of these vulnerable children. The average cost to the taxpayer per child is £200,000 per annum! By way of comparison, this is more than six times the cost of educating a child privately at Eton College, the Alma Mater of David Cameron.
But it’s the sexual exploitation of young girls in care homes which beggars belief. Inquiries reveal that 21 per cent of sexually exploited children are in the care system.
The final disgrace is the attitude of the police. Routinely, when these exploited children made complaints, their complaints were not taken seriously, and they were sent back into the arms of their abusers. In the recent past, and after the arrest of a group of Asian men of Pakistani origin living in Rochdale, one of the abused girls was visited by the police for the purpose of taking a statement. When she was asked if she knew why they were there, she replied: “Oh yes, you’re the same people I complained to over three years ago, and you didn’t believe me, and you did nothing to help me, and you did nothing to stop it”.
The sad reality is that even as I write, the exploitation continues, albeit more discreetly, but it continues. And the government’s response? Let’s have a review, and a report, with luck, by December! They have also ordered a report, yes, another one, from the Deputy Children’s Commissioner for England, who is due to complete her inquiries by 2013!
In the meantime, little or nothing is being done to help these children as a matter of urgency.
The measure of a civilised society is how it treats its most vulnerable. For the time being, it is a very sick society indeed!