One internal report expressed surprise at the level of violence and sexual activity at the home, noting that there was a lot of hostility from a local housing estate after children were abusive, damaged property and were responsible for physical attacks. Social workers reported a “high level of sexual activity” and said the “home was out of control”.
Heathercroft is not the only children’s home in crisis. In another case, two boys were able to repeatedly abscond from their children’s home to stay – sometimes for months – with a well-known Milton Keynes paedophile. In February 1994, senior managers were formally advised of the situation and the police arrested the boys on several occasions and returned them to the council home. But the social services had done nothing to make sure they stayed, neither had it, according to internal documents, taken action to retrieve them. It was legally responsible for the safety of both children.
During a police interview, one of the boys revealed that he had been asked by one of the men in the flat in which they were hiding if he would take £120 to sleep with an “uncle” from Luton.
Later, one of the men with whom the children were staying was arrested in connection with a police investigation into child sex abuse. Another man was among four adults later convicted. The social services department put the children on the at-risk register.
In another home, social workers have been told that any children put on placement there should be considered “at risk” because of violence in the institution. “This is terrifying,” said one source. “To think that a child becomes at risk when it goes into care. All these kids are going to sue this authority for their treatment. We have a duty towards them.”
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