CHILDREN are being put at risk of exploitation due to the lack of checks on their welfare.
That’s the verdict of Redditch County Councillor and leading children’s campaigner Pattie Hill.
Coun Hill (Lab, Arrow Valley West), who has devoted her life to the welfare of children, including working undercover to expose unscrupulous employers, fears that with Worcestershire County Council’s children’s services in disarray and branded ‘Inadequate’ by Ofsted, unknown numbers could be slipping through the safety net.
“The County Council is letting children down. It is our duty to help these children become adults yet at the moment there are no checks,” she said.
“I feel we are going backwards not forwards.”
She added the education watchdog Ofsted had highlighted the number of children being schooled at home, yet no one could actually say how many there were, particularly as academies are now outside local authority control.
“The law states it’s a parent’s right to ensure a child has an education,” said Coun Hill.
“In the past if a child was excluded from a school or withdrawn, someone from the local authority would go along and chat with the parents and generally the child would return to school.
“However children are now at risk because, in all honesty, there aren’t the checks anymore.”
Coun Hill has been a leading figure in child welfare for many years.
She’s shaped child protection laws at both a national and European level, supplied child exploitation storylines for prime time TV shows like Casualty and worked on numerous undercover operations.
She was even the adviser on child employment for the first Harry Potter film.
“I was on the improvement board for childrens services set up by the county council.
“However since Essex County Council came in to look into it all we have left is Overview & Scrutiny Committee and my goodness we will scrutinise it,” said Coun Hill.
Coun Marcus Hart, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Education and Skills, said: “The County Council has a duty to identify children who are residing in its area who may not be in receipt of a suitable education, and offers every parent a visit within three months to identify the suitability of the arrangements and provide parents with information, advice and guidance on related matters.
“If, at any point, the County Council receives evidence to suggest that parents are not making suitable arrangements then an Application for a School Attendance Order will be considered.”