North Wales MS Mark Isherwood has today highlighted report findings that looked after children in North Wales are being exploited and called for an urgent Statement on the matter from the Welsh Government.
Speaking in today’s Business Statement in the Welsh Parliament, Mr Isherwood said that the report ‘County Lines and Looked After Children’, which was published by crime and justice specialists ‘Crest Advisory’ on December 3rd, has revealed that Looked After Children in North Wales are not being safeguarded in the way that they should be.
Mr Isherwood told the Welsh Government Trefnydd (Business Organiser) that it is “an urgent matter which must not be overlooked because of Covid”.
“Using police data and stakeholder interviews in North Wales and Merseyside, chosen to reflect exploitation at both ends of a county line, they found:
“That almost all known County Lines activity in North Wales originates in Merseyside;
“That the lines travel into North Wales in two ways: firstly, into Flintshire and Wrexham local authorities; and secondly, to coastal towns including Rhyl, Colwyn Bay, Abergele, Llandudno, and Bangor;
“That although Looked after children are taken into local authority care to improve their welfare, they are overrepresented in child criminal County Lines exploitation and are therefore far from being effectively safeguarded;
“That children placed in residential care homes and unregulated settings are at a higher risk of going missing, with 31% of missing incidents in North Wales in the last two years reported from care.
”And that although Looked after children are disproportionately represented in county lines networks, they are not being systematically identified by police or local authorities.
“I think this is an urgent matter, a pressing matter, and one that must not be overlooked because of COVID, and I call for an urgent Statement accordingly.”
The Trenydd agreed that “children being exploited is clearly something that we must take very seriously.”
“I know that Mark Isherwood will be taking this issue up with North Wales Police, but I will ask the Minister with responsibility for social services to also provide him with an update on what social services can do to ensure that looked-after children in their care are kept as safe as possible and are educated about the dangers of county lines and protected from individuals who would seek to exploit them.”