New evidence has revealed that in many parts of London there has been an alarming rise in the number of vulnerable children who have gone missing from the care of our local authorities in the last year.
The report London’s Children: Missing From Care, launched today by the London Assembly Member Caroline Pidgeon, provides a detailed picture of theextent of how many children have gone missing and how many times, using freedom of information requests sent to all 32 London Boroughs.
Accurate information was obtained from 21 of London’s boroughs and comparing similar data collected last year it is now possible to accurately compare the changes between 2013 and 2014 in 11 London Boroughs.
In these 11 London Boroughs 231 vulnerable children went missing for more than 24 hours in 2013. A year later in 2014 the number of runaway children had soared to 504 – an increase of 118%.
The increase in runaway children took place both with children placed within London boroughs, but also children placed in care in other councils.
Some examples of the rise in runaway children include:
Enfield: 110 children went missing from care 251 times in the last year. Between 2013 and 2014 the number of children going missing from care increased by 358% from 24 to 110. A closer examination of the statistics shows a staggering 722% increase in missing children in borough placements
Brent: 93 children went missing from care on 172 occasions last year. Between 2013 to 2014 the number of children going missing from care increased by 94% from 48 to 93 children.
Camden: 65 children went missing from care 151 times last year. Between 2013 and 2014 the number of children going missing from care increased by 51% from 43 to 65.
Lewisham: between 2013 and 2014 the number of children going missing from care increased by 164% from 28 to 74 children.
Caroline Pidgeon, commenting on the findings from her report said:
“There is a serious problem with the number of children missing from the care of London Boroughs in every part of London. Not one London Borough can be complacent about this issue.
“A looked after child is already a vulnerable child. If they go missing for 24 hours or more they are immediately at serious risk, such as being drawn into criminal activity or becoming a victim of sexual abuse. Sadly across London there are a number of criminal syndicates which target girls and boys for sexual abuse, often targeting runaway children.
“The recorded figures from boroughs showing a steep rise in runway children over the last year should set alarm bells ringing.
“However, these boroughs at least know how serious the situation is. What is most concerning is the boroughs that fail to accurately collect information or make feeble excuses for not releasing the data.
“Accurate figures for the number of children who runaway form care must be collected by every London council and the data regularly published. Ultimately you can only tackle a problem when you know how serious it is. It is simply wrong that this information has to be obtained through freedom of information requests.
“It says everything about the low priority we give to the protection of children in London that more accurate information is collected about late running tube trains than recording the risks facing London’s most vulnerable children.”
The report also sets out a number of areas for action to provide greater protection to London’s looked after children.