‘Role model’ for children in care to keep them away from abusers

South Yorkshire Police's assistant chief constable Ingrid Lee
South Yorkshire Police's assistant chief constable Ingrid Lee
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A POLICE force criticised for failing to protect children in care homes from the advances of sex abusers has appointed a specialist officer to stop them getting involved in crime.

A report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary described “shortcomings” in the way South Yorkshire Police protects children in care homes and said it had “limited understanding of the risk posed by offenders who target vulnerable children”.

The review into child protection in general across South Yorkshire praised ‘good practice’ in tackling the problem in Rotherham and Sheffield, but said police needed to do better in Doncaster and Barnsley.

South Yorkshire’s assistant chief constable Ingrid Lee said the force had recently introduced the position of a Children in Care Liaison Officer in Doncaster.

She said: “This is a liaison officer who engages with the children and staff of care homes by providing a positive role model, a link into the specialist services and a support to reduce the criminalisation and harm of children in care.”

HMIC’s report cited one case in Doncaster where it took a month for three young girls in a children’s care home who were “involved in increasingly risky behaviour” to be separated despite them frequently going missing and being sexually assaulted by several men. Ms Lee told the BBC yesterday: “That particular case has been reviewed by Doncaster council and by the police, we will looking further into that, to see whether there were failings.”

The force, which was heavily criticised in Alexis Jay’s report into child sex abuse in Rotherham, has also set up multi-agency teams in Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham made up of specialist officers from public protection, social workers and representatives from charity Barnardo’s.

Christine Empson, Divisional Manager for Victim Support in South Yorkshire, said: “Children in Rotherham who were being sexually exploited were badly let down for a long time. Improvements have been made, to the extent that police in Rotherham were not singled out in this inspection.

“But clearly more needs to be done across the county - and the country - to make sure the same mistakes are never repeated.”