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Grooming victim’s mother slams policy on care homes
A GROOMING gang victim’s mother has attacked a policy which saw her daughter sent to care homes outside the county in a bid to protect her from abuse.
The woman’s daughter – who can be named only as Girl 3 and who is now 21 – was abused by the Oxford child sex ring between the ages of 13 and 15 and while she was in the care of social services.
But she was also abused when sent elsewhere in the country, and her mother believes the policy should be scrapped.
Education secretary Michael Gove has criticised authorities who send children to homes away from family and friends.
He said the practice of “decanting” youngsters in this way was “indefensible” – and the Government was taking action to bring the practice to an end.
And the mother of Girl 3 – neither of whose identities can be revealed for legal reasons – said her daughter was “lost and forgotten” when she was sent to care homes outside the county.
The young woman’s mother said her daughter was left more vulnerable to predatory sex abusers after Oxfordshire County Council sent her to children’s homes up to 150 miles away.
She said: “These homes are so far away that it’s difficult for families or social workers to keep in touch with the children placed there.
“I was determined I was not going to let (Girl 3) be like that and I visited at least one a week, but it was very draining and many families wouldn’t be able to do it.
“It is a cruel and vicious policy and nothing to do with keeping children safe.”
A Government dossier has revealed that between April 2011 and March 2012, 55 per cent of Oxfordshire children in care homes were in placements outside the county. In that year there were 45 county children in care homes.
Girl 3 was one of six girls to give evidence at the Old Bailey trial earlier this year which saw seven Oxford men jailed for a total of 95 years.
Her mother said her daughter was placed outside of the county three times.
She said: “They were all disastrous placements and not at all what I wanted for her, but I was told that was all there was.”
Labour MP Ann Coffey, chairwoman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Runaway and Missing Children, said: “Many of the children are so desperately unhappy that they frequently run away and go missing and are at very high risk of being harmed.
“I am pleased that the Government is acting to end this scandal.”
Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet voted in July to build four new care homes for children that would be run directly by the council.
Spokesman Paul Smith said: “This will mean far fewer children placed out of county in future.
“There will always be cases where councils may wish to place children outside of the home county, especially in instances where specialist children’s homes, of which there may be only one or two in the whole country, offer very specific and expert varieties of care that best meet the needs of an individual child.”
He added: “The victims in the Bullfinch case were sometimes placed out of county, or in secure units following applications to the court, in an effort to place distance between them and problems they were experiencing in Oxfordshire.”
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