THE investigation team probing allegations of historic child sex abuse in Oldham should "go looking for answers they may not want to hear".

And Helen Bishop, who has been a voluntary youth worker in the town for more than 20 years, said the inquiry should be extended to include the grooming of teenage boys as drug runners for gangs of older criminals.

Her comments come in the wake of the launch of an investigation by Greater Manchester Police's Crime Review Team led by Assistant Chief constable Nick Bailey alongside child safeguarding expert Dr Henri Geller, as already reported by The The Oldham Times.

This follows a swirl of social media-fuelled rumours and comments by a long-serving former lead for child services on Oldham Council, Hugh McDonald, stating that the task of preventing young people in the town's children's homes becoming victims of child sex exploitation had been "almost impossible".

Mr McDonald said that although he saw for himself gangs of young Asian men were turning up at a children's home in Oldham in 2013, and shouting them out, staff were legally powerless to prevent the teenagers from going out and meeting them.

Now, Ms Bishop, who in 2015 the Youth Local Project based at the Satellite Centre in Greenfield, and who still runs it, has expanded on Mr McDonald's claims and said she believes the same child exploitation issues that emerged in Rochdale several years ago, are also prevalent in Oldham.

She said: "I worked in the homelessness department in Rochdale between 2003 and 2007 and took part in training with teams that were involved in that grooming investigation.

"They told us that there was nothing they could do to stop children leaving the homes as it was against the policy within child social services."

Ms Bishop went on to say "they should change the policy" and that in her view children's homes should ideally be "locked down" at 10pm.

She also suggested "exclusion zones" around children's homes to prevent the scenario described by former councillor McDonald.

"For anyone to think there's not been grooming going on in this town, they must be on another planet," she said. "There are lots of links between Oldham and Rochdale. You're not telling me it's been going on in Rochdale and Huddersfield but not in Oldham.

"It's the only place I know where a 19-year-old can been seen driving round in a £150,000 Bentley and no-one bats and eyelid.

"It's obvious from the people I talk to that there is a major problem. But there's also a bigger problem with young lads being groomed to run drugs by older criminals."

She said that groomers were using social media to recruit vulnerable young people.

Ms Bishop, 43, said: "We set the Youth Local Project up after the cuts to the youth service which removed a lot of opportunities for young people.

"I know how vulnerable young people are because they need a safe place to get people to talk to. If you are young person being groomed who are you able to turn to?

"The key thing is, that authorities are not pro-active in finding it. They are waiting for it to come to them. There's got to be will to find it, but you suspect they don't want to, because it's going to generate a lot of work.

"The problem is, people don't want to ask questions because they know they are going to get answers they don't want to hear."

And she added: "We should be making Oldham a really difficult borough for people to do this kind of thing.

"And there are areas of Saddleworth that have been regular hot spots for drug dealing for years. Everyone's talking about it. it's been there a long time."