AUTHORITIES are failing in their duty to protect older children from becoming victims of physical and sexual abuse, a North East MP has claimed.
Pat Glass, MP for Durham North West, who sits on the Education Select Committee, believes the child protection system is not meeting the needs of older children and must be reviewed urgently.
In a new report, which follows a 12-month inquiry, the committee calls for changes to ensure all young people are treated as children and that their interests are put first.
Mrs Glass fears some vulnerable young people, particularly those in foster care, are forced to live independent lives before they are ready to do so.
She has also expressed concern that some older children are not believed by authorities when they make a complaint relating to abuse.
Mrs Glass said: “This inquiry pre-dates any of the recent allegations about Jimmy Savile and others.
“However, we received clear evidence that all agencies too often fail to respond appropriately to abuse in older children, do not generally believe older children, too often fail to see their behaviour as a symptom of abuse and treat them as complicit in the abuse.” She said the committee was also worried by the fact that “our most vulnerable care leavers” are expected “to cope independently, sometimes from 16 years of age”, adding: “That is wrong and needs to change.”
The committee’s report examines three key themes: neglect, older children and thresholds for intervention, taking children into care and adoption.
Committee chair, Graham Stuart MP, said: “The recent revelations concerning the BBC and other institutions underline how important it is to get child protection right.
“Care for older children is not good enough. We also have particular concerns over the plight of trafficked and asylum-seeking children.
“In all cases, these children must be treated as children first, and not just as either criminals or immigration cases.
“To ensure this happens, we want the Department for Education to take responsibility for the welfare of all children. We also want the Government to review the impact of immigration policy upon child protection.
It calls on the Government to monitor the impact of the economic situation and cuts in services on child-safeguarding.