I am very aware that police resources are severely stretched. As well as fighting crime they are dealing with increasing numbers of vulnerable people and children. A huge amount of police time is spent searching for children who are reported missing – either from their own family home or from care.
In Stockport we have the highest concentration of registered children’s homes in the country. Although more children go missing from family homes, the children who run away from children’s homes do so more frequently. Each time a child is reported missing the police have to respond.
In Stockport we have many children placed from outside areas some as far away as London and this does not make it easy to get the support children need from a social worker in a distant authority .
We need to concentrate on identifying the children who are most at risk when they run away, to prevent them coming to harm. Some children are not at risk and may be in a safe place perhaps having returned to a family member. So it is important that every effort is made to find out where that child is before a missing report is filed so that police time is not wasted. However it is estimated in Stockport that 53% of missing children are at risk of sexual exploitation and these are the children we need to do more to protect. It is also good that the police are training officers to be a regular contact with children’s homes.
Earlier this month I attended the Stockport Provider Forum with children’s homes, foster carers, children’s services and police to discuss how everyone could work better together to prevent children going missing.
I was pleased with the commitment everybody had to overcoming barriers to sharing information. If we know more about children’s lives we can prevent them going missing and better protect them from those who would seek to exploit their vulnerability.