- By Lauren Cooke
Revealed: Scandal of pimps and sexual predators luring
Scottish children in council care into prostitution
YOUNGSTERS in the care of Scotland’s councils are being sexually exploited by the vice trade, a freedom of information probe has shown.
VULNERABLE children being cared for by Scotland’s councils are being groomed as prostitutes, we can reveal.
Our investigation has found 16 separate cases where social workers feared a child had fallen into the hands of pimps and sexual predators in the last four years.
But that is only the tip of the iceberg because the country’s biggest councils – including Glasgow and Edinburgh – refused to reveal their figures…or even whether they collect the information.
Yesterday, one prostitute told us many young girls in care were lured into vice.
The woman, now 32, first sold sex at 14 while in care then went to work in saunas.
She said: “I’d say in reality about 98 per cent of working girls have been sexually or physically abused as children and have
gone into the care system, and have not had the consistency of a normal life.
“Very few girls would choose that as a career. But I think a lot of them start it while in care.”
Politicians and children’s charities joined her in calling for better protection for vulnerable youngsters.
The calls came as the Scottish Government launch a parliamentary inquiry into the extent of the problem.
Matt Forde, head of NSPCC Scotland, said: “While most children in care are well looked after and will have a far better life than the one they were removed from, these cases demonstrate the life-damaging risks faced by some children in the care system who may be more vulnerable to sexual exploitation because of previous abuse they have suffered.
“It’s important there’s a better understanding and collection of information on the extent and scale of this problem in Scotland.
“We must remember that the majority of victims of child sexual exploitation are not in care. But no child should suffer such
abuse, whether they are in care or living at home with their parents.”
Figures supplied by the councils under freedom of information legislation reveal children’s homes in West Lothian and Inverclyde recorded the highest number – both with five cases in the past four years.
In West Lothian, there were four females and one male, all aged 15. It was feared that one of the girls was prostituting herself to pay for her drug habit.
Another continually ran away to a house where drug-taking and prostitution were said to be taking place.
A third girl told social workers she was getting drugs for free from a man – but later disclosed she was having sex with him.
One 15-year-old admitted she had been prostituting herself along with a friend so they could get some money.
The young boy was involved in underage sex at a house and concerns were raised that adults there were exploiting him.
Inverclyde Council could not provide any further details of the incidents, over fears the young people could be identified.
But they said: “In the last four years, we would estimate suspicion in relation to five young people. However, nothing was established as fact.”
In Fife, three cases involving girls were recorded in 2011. Two of them were 14 and one just 13.
In Angus, there were concerns a 15-year-old female was being sexually exploited in 2010 because of her links to a sex offender.
And while Moray Council admitted there were two incidents in the four years, they would not give details, fearing the victims could be identified.
They added: “Our overriding priority is the protection of these children.”
Five councils – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Renfrewshire, Aberdeenshire and Falkirk – said the cost of going through each child’s care notes would be too high. It means when concerns are raised, they are not recorded in one easily accessible place.
Experts say this highlights that the real extent of the problem is just not known.
Linda Thompson, development officer for Women’s Support Project, a charity based in Glasgow who work with teachers and
caregivers to educate them, said: “It is worrying that at this stage we aren’t fully aware of the scale of it.
“How do we then ensure there is support and prevention work happening?
“There is a recognition across the whole of the United Kingdom that something has to be done about this problem.”
In England, a similar request for information uncovered at least 71 suspected cases of child exploitation in the past five years.
According to the figures, the youngest victim was 12 and the oldest was 17.
Ofsted –the English schools watchdog – got 631 reports of children in residential homes being sold for sex in the past five years.
Martin Crewe, director of Barnardo’s Scotland, added: “We have been working with victims of sexual exploitation for a number of years and have identified this as a significant area of concern for children and young people in a number of communities across Scotland.
“We work with a number of local authorities to address this issue and to raise awareness with professionals and the public. However, we are very aware that the extent, nature and scale of this problem is largely unknown.
“In 2011, we launched a public petition calling for Scotland-wide research, to help identify victims and perpetrators and give us a greater understanding of the nature of the crime and how to support children and young people at risk of exploitation.”
Labour MSP David Stewart – the convener of Holyrood’s public petitions committee – said: “We will be looking at the figures as part of the committee inquiry and it may well be that some local authorities give evidence and report before we conclude.
“Getting full information is crucial before we can take the next steps.”
Tory MSP Margaret Mitchell said: “It is very worrying that some councils have been unable to provide information on the number of children suspected to have fallen victim to sexual exploitation or prostitution.
“It really does beg the question of how local authorities are supposed to tackle such a serious problem when it appears they don’t even know its full extent.”
Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: “Children, especially when in the care of councils, must be protected from exploitation.”
Link to Daily Record & Sunday Mail http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/revealed-scandal-pimps-sexual-predators-1883610