Care children 'living near abusers'
Vulnerable children are being sent to live in care homes in areas with high concentrations of known sex offenders, a Government minister has said.
Children's minister Tim Loughton said he will "confront" authorities who send children to different parts of the country without taking into account the danger that they will be preyed upon by sex abusers in their new neighbourhood.
And he said it was clear that ethnicity was a factor in some sex abuse cases, with gangs of men of Pakistani descent grooming teenage white girls, as well as problems involving men from central African backgrounds. He urged members of ethnic minorities not to remain silent about abuse going on within their communities.
Mr Loughton warned that predatory child sex abuse was not only an issue in big cities or northern towns like Rochdale - where a sex grooming ring was exposed earlier this year - but also affected "market towns and rural areas" throughout England.
And he cautioned that, although children in care were disproportionately likely to be victims of sex abuse, girls from "decent, loving families" were also targeted.
Mr Loughton was speaking as the Government launched new reforms to improve protection of youngsters in England's 455 children's homes.
The action comes following a report published by England's Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz, which revealed evidence that sex offenders are targeting children in residential care homes for "violent and sadistic" abuse.
Changes proposed include measures to ensure children are placed in care closer to their home area, to allow police and local authorities to share information about where homes are located, and to improve methods of measuring the number of children who go missing.
There are clusters of children's homes in certain areas, particularly coastal resorts such as Margate in Kent, Worthing in West Sussex and the Fylde coast in Lancashire, said Mr Loughton.
And he told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee: "We have examples of heatmaps where there is a large concentration of children in homes or foster care alongside a large concentration of known sex offenders, sex offenders' hostels, people out of prison on licence - a lot of vulnerable children in an area which I would find it very hard to justify as safe, let alone safer than the areas from which the children have come."