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Crest Advisory research on unregulated care homes

New research


04 August 2020
Crest Advisory research on unregulated care homes

Crest Advisory has published part of their current research project looking at the criminal child exploitation (CCE) of looked-after children and young people (CYP) in two police force areas, North Wales and Merseyside. The research examines whether growing use of unregulated care homes has increased the risk of exploitation of vulnerable CYP in the care system for county lines drug networks. It highlights increases in numbers of CYP starting to be looked after in independent and semi-independent accommodation since 2015 of 79% and 108% respectively, suggesting that placements have been used to accommodate a surge in demand for unplanned placements for vulnerable CYP, rather than planned placements to assist them in transitioning to independence.

The researchers analysed data on children reported missing in Merseyside and spoke with police officers charged with disrupting county lines and protecting vulnerable CYP. They point to 45% of semi-independent accommodation placements being outside the CYP’s home local authority, noting that existing vulnerabilities are exacerbated when CYP are placed far from home. The issue of CYP known to police as being at risk of CCE, and frequently reported missing from semi-independent placements, is also examined in terms of the opportunities afforded to organised crime groups to target these vulnerable CYP:

‘The continually changing resident groups in these homes - a mix of looked after children, care leavers, unaccompanied asylum seeker children and young people accommodated under homelessness legislation - and the mixture of needs and vulnerabilities, all accommodated in predominantly densely populated urban areas often with minimal supervision, creates the perfect conditions for recruitment for county lines either by adults or peers.’

When CYP are accommodated out of area, police and local authorities rarely consult on risks to the CYP or factors which could make a placement unsuitable, meaning police are unaware of a vulnerable CYP until they are reported missing from their placement or arrested. The research raises further questions about the quality of care in semi-independent settings, and the ownership and management of the homes themselves, which will be explored in the final report.

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