15th November 2018
Soaring numbers of incidents of children going missing from care to 70,250 last year are ‘truly shocking’, according to Ann Coffey MP.
Ms Coffey, who is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, said the latest figures released today by the Department for Education on Looked after children in England were ‘grim’.
There were 70,250 incidents of children going missing from care in 2018 involving 11,530 individual children – up almost 10,000 from 60,870 incidents last year.
Significantly, nearly half of the incidents involved children in residential care, which includes children’s homes.
The numbers of missing incidents of children in care has risen massively by 145 per cent since 2015 when the figure was 28,700.
Ms Coffey also expressed ‘bitterly disappointment’ that the number of children ‘farmed out’ into out of borough placements many miles from their home area has continued to rise.
Despite a government pledge to clampdown on out of borough placements there has been a 77 per cent increase nationally since 2012 in the number of children being sent to live away.
In 2012, there were 2,250 children in children’s homes who were placed outside of their borough but in 2018 there are now 3,990 children.
Ms Coffey released figures earlier this year that showed that children placed out of borough are running away at a faster rate than those place locally.
Commenting on today’s figures, Ann Coffey said:
“These figures are truly shocking. Children who go missing from care are at great risk and are often targeted by paedophiles and criminals who seek to exploit them for sex or to run drugs in County Lines operations.
“I am extremely concerned that the numbers of children going missing is going up at the same time as the numbers of children placed in out of borough placements. This is an explosive cocktail.
“The farming out of children to areas where they have no friends or family circles or local social workers has created a perfect storm where it is increasingly difficult to protect children.
“The children’s homes market is catastrophically failing children and young people. We need an urgent government review into whether the children’s homes system, in which 73 per cent of homes are private, is fit for purpose.
“Local authorities have their hands tied with little choice about where children should be placed because of the uneven distribution of children’s homes.
“The system is working in the interests of the private providers but crucially not for the children themselves. This shocking state of affairs must not be allowed to continue.”
I was recently interviewed by the BBCs Inside Out North West.
They conducted an investigation into county lines operations focusing on the shocking levels of violence and exploitation of children by criminal gangs.
In the clip below, I spoke about why we need to reassess how we view children who are criminally exploited by gangs. As well as myself, they spoke with Merseyside Police, a former gang member who groomed children to sell drugs and a mother whose son was exploited by gangs.
The full programme is available to watch on BBC iPlayer for the next 27 days here.