Rochdale’s care homes cannot guarantee the safety of children in their care, claims Council Leader Colin Lambert.
He argues that children who are moved to Rochdale’s care homes from elsewhere in the country remain the responsibility of their home authority, and can become lost in the system.
Cllr Lambert told : “It is a scar and a disgrace on this country's record of caring for vulnerable children.
“Unless the child is from the Borough of Rochdale we have no say in whether the child should be here, whether the home is providing what it should [and] we get no reports back on how the child is progressing.”
The borough has 41 children’s homes, most of which are privately run, and of around 60 children they house, only one is from Rochdale.
He added: “When you have got as many homes in an authority the size of Rochdale you are grouping together, in a small population, a large number of children who are vulnerable and that is an issue.”
Cllr Lambert’s concerns come three weeks after nine men were jailed for abusing underage girls in Rochdale, one of whom lived in a care home.
With a quarter of all the children’s homes, the North-West has the largest number of the facilities across the UK.
Peter Steen, a councillor for Lancashire County Council told Radio 4’s The Report that this was likely to be because of the low cost of property in the region.
Cllr Steen said: “Large houses can be picked up reasonably cheaply and converted, all they require is a licence from Ofsted.”
Guidelines on how local authorities can protect children from sexual exploitation are being published today.
A report, by the children’s charity Barnardo’s and the Local Government Association (LGA), highlights ways that can help professionals and parents spot the warning signs that a child is being abused.
It highlights five key areas – raising awareness among young people, professionals and carers; increasing understanding of what is happening; developing a strategic response; supporting victims, whatever their needs, and; improving policing and prosecutions.
Michelle Lee Izu, Barnardo’s director and head of child sexual eploitation said they saw an 8.4% increase in referrals last year.
She added: “Recognition of this horrific abuse is improving and more children have been identified.
“However, these growing numbers only reinforce how important it is that local areas take action to protect and support children.”