A child told staff at a care home on the Isle of Man that they'd been exchanging sex for money in order to buy drugs.
However, records held by the home 'did not make it clear' if these concerns had been escalated - or whether additional safeguards had been put in place as a result of the child's admission.
The incident, which took place at an unspecified date at one of the island's children's homes, was captured in a critical report produced by the UK Government's Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted) after inspectors were invited to visit the Isle of Man to review its provision for children's social care services.
Inspectors concluded that the unnamed care home where the incident took place was 'not effective.' You can read more on the report and the authorities' reaction to it here.
An extract from the report said: 'The (Ofsted) inspector could not ascertain whether risks for children were understood or professionally managed in this home due to the poor practice.
'For example, known high risks for children, such as substance misuse, child sexual exploitation and going missing, were evident and children were not safeguarded effectively.
'During incidents in which children are thought to have used drugs, these concerns are not escalated.
'On one occasion, a child told staff that they had been having sex for money to enable them to buy drugs.
'Records do not make it clear whether this concern was escalated, professional curiosity pursued, or additional safeguards put into place.'
Ofsted inspectors also said that the impact of substance misuse on children in the island's care homes were of a 'significant concern'.
While investigating the wider provision of children's social care services on the island, the report found that 'risks in relation to children at risk of exploitation are not always fully identified, understood and assessed, meaning some children are at risk of further exploitation.'
The independent report concluded that children's services on the island need 'significant improvement' and should be assessed regularly by independent inspectors at least every five years.
Ofsted were invited to the island by Manx Care, an independent organisation who are responsible for delivering health and social care services on behalf of the government, at the end of April this year and spent around three weeks on the Isle of Man as part of the inspection.
In total, inspectors found 11 'headline' issues resulting in 61 findings which needed to be addressed.
According to the healthcare provider, 26 of these actions have been completed so far while another 27 are ongoing.
A further eight areas require financial input or resolution by other government departments or agencies.
In the wake of the inspection, Manx Care say they have set up an ‘action plan’ in a bid to tackle the failings.
A children’s services improvement board to monitor and steer progress has also been established.
Elsewhere in the report, the children’s and families services was praised for its attempts to create a nurturing and attentive environment n homes for younger children.
Ofsted also said that there was a sound understanding of children’s well-being within the workforce and that all children consistently have access to therapeutic services to help promote their emotional well-being.
Manx Care response
In response to some of the concerns raised in the report, Manx Care said: 'We had developed a multi-agency response to the exploitation of young people across agencies.
'This was in its infancy during the Ofsted visit and continues to develop.
'Some initial changes were made to the process and oversight as suggested by Ofsted and we will be visiting other jurisdictions in October/November of 2023 to see how they have developed their responses and services in this arena.
'Any learning and opportunities identified from these visits will be considered and where appropriate implemented'
Addressing concerns raised in the report regarding quality assurance and reporting management, Manx Care said: 'Prior to the Ofsted visit we had developed a quality assurance and performance framework.
'This was a new way of working and was in the initial stages when Ofsted visited.
'We have now started to embed this across the service area and it continues to progress.
'This will give us greater oversight in terms of our performance and improvement.'
Minister for Health and Social Care, Lawrie Hooper MHK, said: ‘I am grateful to Ofsted for providing us with this thorough report. We know that the services need to improve and develop in order to properly support the young people that we become responsible for, to ensure that we are giving them the best possible opportunities and improving outcomes.
He added: ‘Each of the recommendations highlighted within the reports will be addressed by the DHSC and Manx Care, working in conjunction with the key stakeholders, and raising awareness among professionals to improve the practice of these services to ensure a high-standard of care and protection.’
Teresa Cope, Chief Executive for Manx Care, said: “We have accepted all the findings and recommendations in the Ofsted report, and a comprehensive action plan is in place which is being monitored by our board to oversee the improvements within the service.
'The report highlights a number of areas for improvement which require a multi-agency response, and therefore we welcome the development of the children’s services improvement board – this will be independently chaired and will enable the progression of the medium and long-term developments across the wider system.'