Ann Coffey MP has welcomed the introduction of a new National Missing Persons Register as the number of missing children incidents in Greater Manchester continues to increase.
The new Register, to be introduced in 2018, will allow police forces to access information about children going missing across force boundaries, which they cannot do at the moment.
Ms Coffey, who is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, has campaigned for a national register to help in the fight to safeguard missing children over many years.
She said: “I am very pleased that the Home Office has announced a new register. It will be a great advance as police officers across the country will be able to swap intelligence and information across boundaries in the fight to keep our children safe.
“Missing children are at particular risk of child sexual exploitation and other forms of criminal exploitation and the Register will allow the police to access data about missing children across areas. It will allow the police and children’s services to give a better assessment of risk of harm.”
Every year the UK National Missing Person’s Bureau produces an annual report based on returns of missing incident figures from individual police forces.
The latest figures from the UK Missing Persons’ Bureau reveal that 4,379 individual children in Greater Manchester went missing in a total of 16,457 incidents in 2015/16.
This was a 20 per cent increase of the previous year’s missing incidents of 13,673.
The GMP figures also revealed that almost half (47 per cent) of the 16,457 missing incidents for 2015/16 involved children going missing from care – a disproportionately high amount.
Ms Coffey said: “A disproportionate number of children who go missing are from care and many of those are children who have been placed in care a long way from their home area. The Register will be an invaluable tool for police officers to take appropriate action when they encounter a missing person who is away from his or her home force area.”
There are additional difficulties in keeping children safe when they are placed away from their local area. Greater Manchester Police continue to report concerns that very vulnerable children at high risk of child sexual exploitation have been placed within the GMP area without their knowledge.
All too often the police only become aware of such children when they are reported missing or following them suffering from sexual abuse or exploitation.