Police are called an average of 425 times a month to children’s homes in Lancashire because youngsters have gone missing.Ah, yes. You can read all about the sort of homes we are talking about at Winston Smith’s excellent blog.
It is estimated that the financial strain of dealing with the issue is costing police and taxpayers around £5million per year.
The figures have been included in a report entiled ‘Who Cares?’ that has been drafted by a task group of the county council’s scrutiny committee.Perish the thought!
It has already sparked controversy, with county councillor Susie Charles, the executive member for children’s services, being accused of ‘complacency’ and attempting to ‘bury’ the report.
But Coun Charles has denied the claims and insisted several recommendations, including establishing a multi-agency hub for looked-after children, were being taken forward.And will that ‘multi-agency hub’ go out at midnight to drag back little Aleeesha or Shevan from wherever they are hiding, or will they just be the ones to call the police, rather than whoever does it now?
But maybe it’s not something that we should worry about?
In the report, into placements by other north-west authorities into dozens of Lancashire homes, both council-run and independently-managed, county councillors have been told how:Ouch! That’s a lot of disruption. And a lot of money:
One boy at a Rossendale care home went missing 11 times in a short period - but his social worker had not visited him for three months.
Five homes in Bacup were responsible for 80 missing from home reports.
One youngster was reported to have gone missing 40 times.
Children at a Wyre home were found taking drugs, drinking in the street and engaging in under-age sex.
One ‘prolific’ young offender, who was placed in a unnamed private care home in East Lancashire without notifying police or social services, created 'havoc' before he could be moved.
Det Supt Ian Critchley, head of the county’s public protection unit, who was interviewed by the watchdog group, estimated that each case cost the force around £1,000 to deal with, in terms of officers resources, as well as the disruption to other services.Bill the council direct!
County councillor Peter Steen, who represents Whitworth and chaired the task group, said the looked-after children, especially those with personal difficulties, should not be ‘demonised’.And the sort of people they should offer ‘support’ to? The sort of people who don’t need to be ‘demonised’?
“The vast majority of children who are looked after is because there are problems in their background,” said Coun Steen.
“They are not bad, it is not their fault but they need support. But also the police need to be aware if there is someone who is vulnerable who is coming on to their patch. They need to be able to offer support.”
Just two years ago Lancashire Police was forced to step in and apply for the closure of Brighton House in Waterfoot, after teenagers went on the rampage across the Rossendale valley./facepalm
And in 2008, 13-year-old Jamie Smith, who absconded from the Higher Cockham Farm home in Haslingden, was jailed for 13 years after he pushed a man into a bonfire in Birkenhead.