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Young People in Care

Volume 507: debated on Monday 8 March 2010

10. What recent representations he has received from local authorities on the safety and security of young people in care. (320684)

I am puzzled about that, because last week UNICEF produced an excellent report, in which it said that three councils—Kent, Solihull and Harrow—reported losing contact with children in their care and expressed concern that there could be thousands more out there at risk of exploitation, but invisible to the professionals. Will the Minister confirm that she will immediately put an end to trafficked children being accommodated in bedsits and hostels, where they are very much at risk from their traffickers? It really is a bit of a scandal that children are disappearing—

The hon. Gentleman has a fine track record in representing the best interests of young people who are trafficked to this country. He and I had discussions on the matter recently. Clear guidance is in place on the standards that we expect local authorities to achieve in identifying and supporting children who may have been trafficked. If he has specific issues regarding the three local authorities he mentioned, and if he brings them to my attention, I will be happy to pursue them on his behalf.

Following the damning PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ofsted reports into safeguarding and looked-after children in Calderdale, and the litany of failure they highlighted, what importance does my right hon. Friend attach to the role of elected local authority cabinet members, particularly the portfolio holder and the leader of the council, in corporate parental responsibility?

Both elected members and officials in local authorities should be and are undertaking their responsibilities with regard to looked-after children and are caring for them as the corporate parent to the very highest of standards. Where that does not occur, and when interventions are necessary, the Government act swiftly. Later today, I will be meeting representatives from Calderdale local authority to discuss the particular issues following the Ofsted report of 26 February.

The right hon. Lady will be aware that the two children who were responsible for the horrific crimes chronicled in the serious case review into the Edlington case were both in foster care. Does she believe that the executive summary into that case is an adequate document?

I have read both the full report and the executive summary. Ofsted judged the latter to be good. As the Minister responsible for dealing directly with discussions with Doncaster, I am taking forward all the questions of improving that authority’s procedures for safeguarding children.

I am literally amazed that the Minister thinks that that scanty 10-page document is adequate to do justice to the scale and complexity of the case. The British Association of Social Workers—the professional body—has said that full serious case reviews should be published in a suitably anonymised version. Why are the professionals wrong, and why is the Secretary of State correct?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children does not agree with that view. In these circumstances, it is important that all the information is in the full serious case review to ensure that the lessons are learned, and that people are frank and open about what happened. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has already made the point about ensuring that whenever necessary we protect people’s identity, and the hon. Gentleman knows that all these matters are being considered in the discussions on how we move forward on the guidance for the information that should be made available in the executive summary. Ofsted has judged the executive summary in that case to be good, and we need to ensure that lessons are learned and acted on.