16/09/2019 22:30 BST | Updated 17/09/2019 09:47 BST

Thousands Of Vulnerable Children Becoming 'Magnets' For Drug Gangs, Warn MPs

Report highlights trauma suffered by young people housed far away from their homes.

county lines

Thousands of vulnerable children are becoming “magnets” for drug gangs and paedophiles because they are being placed in children’s homes up to 100 miles from where they grew up, MPs have warned.

A report published on Monday said local councils were “unwittingly” becoming recruiting sergeants for so-called county lines gangs which export drugs from big cities to smaller towns and rural areas of the country.

The inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults was told too many children were being isolated from friends, family and social workers.

Writing for HuffPost UK, MP Ann Coffey, the chair of the APPG, said the situation was now at “crisis point”.

“Children are being systematically failed and placed in danger by the very professionals charged to help them,” she said.

“Withouta sea change in approach, councils and government will continue to be complicit in exacerbating the trauma of neglected and abused children.”

The inquiry was told by more than 70 per cent of the 41 police forces that took part that placing children out of area increased their risk of exploitation.

MPs heard how one boy tried to hang himself on Christmas Day after being placed two and half hours away from home.

While in another case, a 15-year-old girl walked 10 miles back to her mother’s home in another county.

The APPG has demanded the government come up with an emergency plan, backed up with funding, to cut the number of children placed in homes far away from where they grew up.

The Local Government Association said that children’s homes were “currently unevenly located around the county, and increasing demand means that councils can sometimes be forced to place children and young people in out of area placements, or placements that are not best suited totheir needs”.

Mark Russell, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said the inquiry uncovered ”truly shocking examples of the trauma and risk experienced by children placed out of area”.

“No looked after child should be placed simply because that is where a bed is free, instead of that is where the child is most likely to receive the care, support and sense of belonging they deserve,” he said.