Monday, 18 June 2012

Is abuse of children in homes something new?

The Rochdale taxi drivers case has provoked a maelstrom of activity amongst MP's fronted by Ann Coffey who has taken evidence at an All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, and said:

“There is a scandal going on in England involving children missing from care - and until recent cases of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale and other places put the spotlight on this issue – it was pretty much going unnoticed.

“This inquiry has revealed the widespread concern that what we have in place at the moment falls dramatically short of what is needed to protect some of society’s most vulnerable children. “We know that dangerous predators are exploiting large gaps in the system and targeting children.”

My reaction is several fold:-
  1. Paedophiles always exploit whatever loop holes they can find in the care system to target vulnerable children.
  2. Vulnerable children are always easier to exploit than more robust children who are more likely to be strong enough to repel any would be assailant sex offenders.
  3. This is history repeating itself but on a smaller scale. Back in the 1990's 37 out of 41 Police Forces had a major children's home investigation in their county to supervise. Numerous alleged sex offenders, who had been able to get jobs as care workers at the homes with a view to abusing children were sent to prison for varying periods of time, whilst protesting their innocence in some cases.
  4. The Police spent several years between about 1994 and 2001, "scratching the surface" of the scale of abuse which prevailed in  children's homes during the 60's, 70's, and 80's.
  5. In those cases, because of "loopholes" in the recruitment process which at the time did not have a sophisticated vetting process, paedophiles managed to get jobs looking after children. There was no such thing as the Criminal Records Bureau, and a very haphazard Data Protection System.
  6. If you like golf, join a golf club. Paedophiles just had to get a job at a Children's Home in order to foster their preference for children. The rest was easy. When a child complained, because he/she was in care, they were not believed, and the abuse went un-investigated.
  7. It was always better to target a smaller less regulated homes than a large, more professionally run Local Authority Home. The same is happening now.
  8. Because less money is being invested into the system by central government, the private sector has become involved to fill the gaps. Thus it is no surprise that now "Of the 1,800 children’s homes in England, three quarters are run by private groups, very often housing just one or two particularly troubled children - charging taxpayers up to £250,000 a year per child." see the Telegraph Article today.
  9. The lacunae highlighted by the various reports that a lot of children are housed out of area, and that the police do not really know what is going on is no surprise. Following the scandals in the 1980's a paper called "Working Together" was published, which criticised the various child care organisations for not communicating with each other. This was remedied by Joint Committees being set up. Now we have a similar problem but in a different guise.
  10. We will always spend our life sticking plaster over the cracks, only to find that paedophiles find other cracks to exploit. That is their modus operandi. They want to exploit children. They are clever and manipulative. The operate in groups. There is money to be made. They will thus find a way round whatever system we devise.
  11. I am a foster parent. Some of our children run off when things are not going their way. It is their solution to unhappiness that they feel within themselves, or a temper reaction. Run away. It is nothing new. It does not solve anything, but it is a human being's reaction to unhappiness. Run away. Our own children sometimes do it in adolescence until they come to their senses.
  12. If your own child runs away, you only report them missing when you can't find them anywhere. If a foster child does not return at the appointed time, then even though you have a fairly good idea where they might be, you are obliged to report them missing to the police for health and safety reasons, hence the figures for those "missing" can be distorted by statistics and rules.
So undoubtedly there are worrying features about the recent governmental report, but it is nothing new. If anything the scandal is not as bad as it was in the police investigations of the past, which I have witnessed. There were scandals of children being "sold" as rent boys, or girls from the care system being used as prostitutes at outrageous parties. If the government use the private system to supplement lack of resources, then inevitably there is less control, and there a greater opportunity to exploit.

Abuse never goes away, it simply morphs into a different shape and size. It is like those tubs of gue that children sometimes play with.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Am I a queen?

The title of this article is, of course, a pun. Obviously I am not the queen even though my trousers suggest that I am of a royalist nature. I do like the queen, even though I have never met her. I believe that our country would a lot less stable, and more open to corruption if we had a presidential state without a figure head to provide balance and deference.

 Almost without exception prime ministers hold the queen in high regard, and treat her with respect. She signs every statute, and governmental policy has to be approved by her before the opening of parliament.  I think it was David Cameron who said (without even a hint of insincerity - but there again you would expect nothing less) that over the years she had provided much wisdom and guidance to successive prime ministers.

So why am I looking decidedly patriotic (some said effeminate on Facebook - as if?)? Well on Jubilee day - Friday 1st June actually - we had a royal day at the office. It cost £1 if you dressed up and £2 if you didn't. Various staff baked wonderful cakes which cost money, we had pink bubbly and chocolate covered strawberries which Claire made - thank you Claire. Thank you also Claire for organising the day. The firm - Abney Garsden McDonald solicitors topped up the money raised for Cancer Research to £200.

Did I wear the trousers again? Well of course I did. We had a Jubilee party on Bank Holiday Monday at our caravan in Anglesey, when I was forced, totally against my will, to drink large quantities of champagne, beer, wine, and eat huge quantities of barbecued food. What a penance - all because I was wearing Union Jack trousers.

So all those who like the Queen say "Aye". Those who like my trousers say "Aye". If you would like to borrow the trousers, I can accommodate you at a price of course. Just a punnet of strawberries and a tot of bubbly will do.

If the Queen reads this, Lillibet, please don't overlook me in the next honours list. A CBE will do.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Children's Homes - Good Bad or Ugly?

The Guardian publicised a story following the Rochdale case which promotes the protection of sexually exploited children in care at the behest of Barnado's who are appealing for specialised foster parents. You can read the story here

This is an old problem which has come to people's attention recently because of the Rochdale story of girls from care homes being groomed by Asian Taxi drivers.

But children from care homes are usually the most badly damaged vulnerable children in care, who are too difficult to manage in other types of care such as fostering. So it is no surprise that they are the easiest to target, most in need of any sort of affection, and low in self esteem.

The government are now looking at the problem according to the article, but there is no money to sort it out, so why not turn to charities instead of using government funds to try and solve a problem which should be sorted out by the state.

My wife and I are foster parents in Cheshire East, which is not as short of funds as some local authorities, yet they are choosing to pay more by sending children out to Agency Foster Parents, when there are Local Authority foster parents within the county with spare beds. It is a scandal, which presumably is something to do with budgets, but we are at a loss to know why.

Children in Care need protection from paedophiles, but I remain pessimistic as to whether the government will put its money where its mouth is, during a Conservative type of cut, save and cut more Britain.

At work - ( we see the results of failed attempts at care all the time, when the care system lets children down, and it is not a pretty site. When they do get it wrong, fault is rarely admitted, and many years of contested litigation result, usually many years after the event.

"Historic Abuse": Child abuse should not be so described

"Historic Abuse": Child abuse reported in adulthood is referred to b...: Child abuse reported in adulthood is referred to by all and sundry as "historic abuse."quotes Tom Perry in his blog.

At the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers - and indeed at my own firm Abney Garsden McDonald (, we constantly wrestle with abuse which happened many years ago, and "Limitation" or "Time Delay", as it is colloquially known.

Using the word "Historic" is therefore not only ill advised legally in that it emphasises by its description the fact that the abuse happened a long time ago, but also disrespects the survivor whose suffering is life long.

I am going to be recommending that we promote this idea as a campaign on our Website. I also support Tom in suggesting to the Police, who first coined the phrase back in the late 1990's, that its use is abandoned.