Kent MP Sir Roger Gale: Abusers in same road as children's homes

Anxious child (model) Kent County Council said it was unacceptable for other councils to place children in high-risk areas

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Registered sex offenders are living in the same Kent road as several children's homes, an MP has claimed.

Sir Roger Gale, Thanet North's Conservative MP, said the sex offenders were living "cheek by jowl" with vulnerable children.

Kent County Council (KCC) said children were being placed there by other councils across the country.

Sir Roger's comments come as plans are published to tackle the sexual exploitation of children in care homes.

Sir Roger said: "There is a road that is well-known for having a number of children's homes and, at the last count that I knew about, 15 registered sex offenders were living cheek by jowl. That has got to be an explosive mixture.

"The police know about it but there is a limit to what they can do. Social services know about it, but there is a limit to what they can do and very often they are not told when children are placed out of area by a London borough. That in itself is a disgrace."

'Dickensian situation'

The MP, who did not name the road, said Kent was receiving a "huge number" of looked-after children from outside the county.

Sir Roger said he had been given the details by Kent Police.

Start Quote

Many of these children are deeply damaged. They have suffered abuse and neglect ”

End Quote Councillor Jenny Whittle

He issued a joint statement with Laura Sandys, Conservative Thanet South MP, calling for an end to a "Dickensian situation" that allowed vulnerable children to be relocated without any assessment of whether that environment was safe or suitable.

KCC said it had 24 looked-after Kent children in care homes in the county with others placed outside the county for safety reasons. Thanet currently has 243 children in care from outside the area.

Councillor Jenny Whittle, KCC's cabinet member for children's services, said the location of children's homes near sex offenders was an "enormous worry".

She said: "There has been a practice that's developed of councils placing children many miles away from home and not knowing the areas where they are placing these children."

She said Thanet had been a magnet for independent homes providers because they could buy cheaper property in coastal areas, and care organisations had bought up property in Thanet, and also in Hastings, East Sussex.

'Placements under review'

"It's up to children's social services departments of councils across the country to have an absolute grip and knowledge of the areas where they are placing children," she added.

She said: "Many of these children are deeply damaged. They have suffered abuse and neglect in their childhoods. Placing them in high-risk areas is absolutely unacceptable."

Ms Whittle said: "What we are calling for in Kent is for London councils and other councils to make provision far closer to home."

KCC had met social care chiefs from London councils and had secured commitments that all Thanet placements would be reviewed, and that councils would alert KCC when children were placed in Kent and when they left Kent, she added.

She said KCC previously had not been alerted when children were placed in the area and had not known how many placements there were.

Ms Whittle said Ofsted licensed children's homes, and sex offenders were managed by the police and probation services.

Ofsted issued a statement which said: "As regulators we register children's homes to make sure they are able to provide the necessary support for children living in the home. However, we do not have powers to dictate the location of these homes.

"Ofsted has called for the regulations to be changed to allow us to share details of the names and addresses of children's homes with the police, which we are currently prohibited by law from doing."

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