The secretary of state for Education, Michael Gove, did something profoundly useful this last week, lifting the ban on revealing the locations of children's homes in the UK; the places that house our forlorn and forgotten few who are wards of the state, placed there for a variety of reasons usually owing to abusive and neglectful parents. He lifted the ban, imposed for data protection reasons, simply because the location of their whereabouts was freely known by the scumbags who groom and prey on children in care. In having the ban, the Burka-style cloak of child care failed to safeguard children when social services wanted to know where they were to rightfully check up on the homes, the staff running them, and assess standards. It is not therefore difficult to realise that conditions are dire, with many children's homes pitifully failing the standards set by Ofsted. This is despite it costing nearly £200k a kid per year! Not ideal you might say, and I would agree.
The locations of said homes are often many miles from the children's hometown, providing an ample poverty-infused breeding ground for the paedophiles and scourges of society to target. When I spent time in state care in the North West of England in the late 1980s, (home to the largest group of looked after children in the UK - 'Looked After' is the new phrase for 'kids in care') there was something for everyone; deliciously decrepit old sweaty men who would pay decent cash for girls as young as 13 and 14 to clean their homes, code for visit and take your clothes off. They amazingly always lived in close proximity to the children's home, as if by chance.
One such girl would be asked to cook dinner without knickers on for a nicely polished £2 coin round some sickos house. I recall standing horrified one evening watching this spotty faced 13 year old take her undies off as she bundled out the door. My own abuse came in the form of homosexual paedophilia, I shall spare you the details. It is fair to say the criminals were known to the police. They had already served considerable incarceration time for crimes too horrible to mention. They managed to trick me into a very cleverly worked trap. The skill they possess is truly remarkable and the lengths they will go to constantly amazes specialist police officers trained in their capture, it is the crime that sickens society the most, and the criminal knows this and evades with Sherlock Holmes style skull duggery and guile. For me back then the offering of Diamond White cider, cans of deodorant aerosol to inhale from Spar carrier bags rounded off with JPS cigarettes for a damaged and frightened 15 year old was enough to lure me into a trap that led to violent rape and debauched torture. I very luckily escaped, with most of my sanity intact, not all though my pals will say.
The care workers did their best I am sure, poorly paid and understaffed, badly trained, having lost the will of empathy for our plight, the constant verbal abuse they received from my beleaguered and abused kin must have sufficed to make them ask why they bothered at all. It was not my parents' fault either; they were far too absorbed in their own world and miseries to care about me and the world that they had abandoned me to. Nevertheless it happened, happens and will continue to do so.
The State has to act. The State has a burden of responsibility despite the fact it has got much better since the 1980's, as the recent enquiries into child abuse scandals the breadth of the country have shown. We turned the other cheek and let these children rot; as true as it was in my day it is true now. Adults who were tasked with the care of our children in the most fragile and delicate of situations allowed them to be sexually and physically raped and ruined in a way that has left many dead from suicide or addicted to drugs for life. At best, most are unable to work or form real, meaningful relationships.
I sincerely hope this is the start of reform, openness, and transparency in the standards of care homes and the standards of training and care workers who are tasked with this complex and often demanding job. The statistics are both compelling and heartbreaking. I will not bore you with the long list of data, but here is a juicy taster: 27% of the adult prison population has been in care and 40% of prisoners under 21 have been in care. Not ideal. Think of the long term legacy costs to this, the burden on the countries coffers, care, prison, mental illness, and the moral and ethical impact.
Given most of the these care homes are privately run, I may set one up myself, with my charity, if you know how or want to help me, get in touch! I fancy a challenge.