9 May 2012

Two ministers will give evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry into children missing from care tomorrow. This comes on the same week as the conclusion of a shocking sexual grooming case involving girls from children’s homes.

Nine men involved in a 'sexual grooming network' have been jailed at Liverpool Crown Court in a trial in a child sex ring that exploited vulnerable teenagers.

Tim Loughton, the Minister for Children and Families and Lynne Featherstone, the Minister for Equalities and Criminal Information, will give evidence to the final session of the Parliamentary Inquiry tomorrow (May 10) being held by two influential All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) – the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers.

Figures suggest that hundreds of girls in children’s homes are being sexually abused by organised networks of men. England’s children’s homes, which care for 1,800 girls, have recorded 631 incidents of girls being sold for sex during the past five years, including 187 during the past 10 months.

Running away or going missing from home is a key indicator that a child might be involved in sexual grooming and children in care are three times more likely to run away than children living at home. When they go missing, they place themselves in great danger of being physically or sexually abused. 

Anne Coffey MP, Chair of the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults said:

'In previous evidence sessions we have heard harrowing evidence of what happens when children go missing from care and the physical and sexual abuse they encounter. We are looking forward to hearing from the two ministers about what the government and other agencies can do to help protect the most vulnerable children in our land.

'We know that Children in care are three times more likely to run away than children living at home and that missing is a key indicator in sexual abuse.

'Far too many children who run away or go missing from care become victims of sexual and physical abuse and exploitation. One child in this situation is one child too many. Every child who has to appear in court as a victim of sexual exploitation is a failure of the system to prevent harm.

'The Rochdale experience clearly demonstrates the need for local agencies to work together and share information. It is imperative that professionals are aware of the strong links between going missing and child sexual exploitation so that they are able to identify the signs early and prevent absue from taking place. Based on the comprehensive evidence submitted to the Inquiry, we will provide practical recommendations that can make a real impact on the lives of thousands of the very vulnerable children who run away from care every year.'

The inquiry comprises of four oral evidence sessions including one focussing on child trafficking, others on issues around runaways. A report is set to be published in the summer. Senior representatives from the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, will also give evidence at the final session of the Inquiry.

The inquiry is supported by The Children’s Society and The Who Cares? Trust. The final session will be held at 10am to 11am in Committee Room 13 at the House of Commons.

Ends

Media enquiries

For more information, please call Paul Martin in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422 or email paul.martin@childsoc.org.uk For out of hours enquiries please call 07810 796508.

Notes to editors:

Child trafficking involves the transport of a child from one place to another either internally or cross border for the purpose of exploiting them for labour or sexual exploitation.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults works to raise awareness in Parliament of issues connected to children and adults who go missing or run away. The Group meets throughout the year to explore, discuss and debate key issues connected to going missing or running away. Through inquiries, stakeholder presentations and engaging with children, young people and families, the Group seeks to encourage the Government to put in place the best possible policy and legislation for children and adults who go missing or run away. 

The Group was set up in 1998 to ensure that the voices of young people with experience of public care are heard by Government and that legislation addresses the particular needs of children and young people in and leaving care and to debate key policy and practice issues. The Groups’ meetings are attended by members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, representatives of voluntary organisations, childcare professionals and people who are currently in care or have past personal experience of the care system. The Group seeks to be a powerful voice on behalf of children and young people in and leaving care.