Sexual abuse of a ‘violent and sadistic nature’ is rife across UK children care homes warned England’s Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz following the Rochdale sex ring scandal.
The Government announced reforms to improve the protection given to youngsters after Ms Berelowitz published a report into the jailing of nine men who targeted young girls in Greater Manchester.
Just one girl was in a care home at the time of the abuse, but all the victims were known to social services at some point in their childhood.
The report found some homes were specifically targeted by predators and speaking alongside Children’s Minister Tim Loughton she said she was left shocked by the results.
Speaking about the abuse Ms Berelowitz said: “It is of a violent and sadistic nature.
“I’ve been in the children’s services field for a very long time, and I have never come across the scale of violence and sadism that I’m encountering now. The stories that children and young people tell us are truly horrific.
“I think it’s quite right and proper that the Government is paying special attention to this group of children as the state is their parent and therefore we have a special duty of care to children who are under care orders of one kind or another.”
Mr Loughton said action was being taken as police figures estimate that 10,000 children go missing from care every year – however the Government recorded only 930 children disappearing.
The minister now wants a new system of measuring how many children go missing, while children’s homes would be properly protected and located as currently police and local authorities cannot share information about where they are.
More will also be done to make sure children are sent to homes closer to where they are from and the Government aims to tackle the ‘out of sight, out of mind culture’ that allows abuse to go on.
Mr Loughton said: “We are talking about a very vulnerable group of children. Children who come into care should expect a degree of safety in the care of the state.
“Children who come from very traumatic backgrounds, they may have been abused or neglected for a long time, need to know they are safe in the form of care the state is providing for them.
“These reports lift the lid on very serious weaknesses in the system.
“There are good children’s homes and excellent care workers but it is clear that far too many of the most vulnerable children in society are being exposed to harm and danger.
“It is completely unacceptable that existing rules are simply being ignored and that frankly, some local authorities and homes are letting down children by failing to act as a proper parent.”
Barnardo’s announced 31% of the 3,500 young people the charity looked after through its sexual exploitation services in the last six years were in care.
Chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: “We know that children from all walks of life are at risk of child sexual exploitation, but those who are already vulnerable, such as children in care, are especially so.
“We need to be sure that by clustering vulnerable children together in certain areas of England we are not putting already desperate children in even greater danger of being preyed upon.
“It is worrying that we don’t know the true level of this threat and better data collection will be key. However, action is also needed to protect those children in care now.”