Friday, 4 Dec 2020

Police launch probe over claims drug dealers are recruiting kids to sell drugs in children's homes as four are arrested

POLICE have launched a probe over claims drug dealers are recruiting kids to sell drugs in children's care homes.

Cops warned earlier this year that drugs gangs were placing junior members into care homes, but this is thought to be the first allegation of staff being involved, The Mirror reports.

The police probe is focusing on one Lancashire home, which has not been named, run by Care 4 Children.

Two men aged 25 and 32 have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking and supplying Class B drugs and have since left the company.

A further two men, aged 23 and 25, have been questioned under caution.

All four had reportedly worked in a string of Care 4 Children homes across the North West – sparking fears drug gangs could have been working from other homes.

A police spokesman said: “We have received allegations of modern slavery and trafficking offences related to a care home in Lancashire.

“The investigation is continuing.”

DRUG DEALS

Workers at the home would reportedly smell cannabis on the premises and in staff cars, as well as finding mobile phones and “snap” bags used for drug deals.

Whistleblowers told the Mirror drugs were repeatedly found at the home and dealers would phone the house and demand to speak to the boys.

One of the suspects is accused of taking youngsters to meet drug dealers in Manchester.

It is understood he was suspended after a video emerged of him beating on one boy’s door shouting “b***h” and “little smackhead” while making reference to “weed”.

A second whistleblower claimed there was a "cannabis" smell at the home but was shot down by senior staff when he flagged his concerns.

CONCERNS RAISED

Workers initially raised their concerns last year after three phones used by one of the boys were found.

They revealed a series of calls and texts from a worker at the home, it is understood.

Cops investigated but the boy is said to have given a “no comment” interview and no further action was taken, according to leaked documents.

The staff member was suspended before being moved to another home.

But five months later, a fourth phone was found in the same boy’s room, showing calls and messages from the same member of staff and another colleague.

Another whistleblower claimed staff were encouraged not to record incidents that would negatively impact on Ofsted reports.

When a boy allegedly went missing for a number of days and came back under the influence of drugs, an ambulance was called, but staff were allegedly told not to record it.

A third whistleblower claims one staff member was beaten so severely he was hospitalised.

Later, a hammer and baseball bat were found in the home along with a bottle of “lean”, a sedative made of codeine and soft drink.

'EASY TARGETS'

Chris Wild, author of Damaged, who grew up in a children’s home, said youngsters are "surrounded by danger" in care homes.

And he claimed kids can be "easy targets" for criminal gangs looking to exploit them.

According to reports, Care 4 Children did not properly act on their concerns that residents were being targeted.

But this had been denied by Care 4 Children.

And an Ofsted report found that three vulnerable boys, all aged under 16, were “increasingly safer” through living in the home.

C4C operates 18 care homes and special schools registered by Ofsted from North Wales to Yorkshire.

Care 4 Children said thy had reissued their whistleblowing policy and appointed an internal independent investigator to examine the allegations.

A spokesman said: “At Care 4 Children the welfare of children and young people are our paramount concern.

"We take the issue of child safeguarding and protection seriously and always respond and act quickly to keep children and young people safe, to safeguard and promote their welfare.”

Ofsted said: “It isn’t unusual for concerns to be raised about children’s homes. We always consider and act on those appropriately at the time.

“During inspection, any information we already hold informs lines of enquiry, and all inspection judgements are based on the evidence that we find.

“Ofsted is the regulator and inspectorate of children’s homes rather than an investigative body. But we have visited a number of homes run by C4C in recent weeks as they were prioritised for early assurance visits.”

The police are understood to have reopened their investigation in the light of fresh information and have spoken to six whistleblowers.

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