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Child Protection

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 6 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children have disappeared from care in each year since 1997; what measures are in place to ensure children remain in care; what assessment has been made of where children go when they disappear from care; what measures are in place to try to keep track of their whereabouts; and if he will make a statement about the safety of children who disappear from care. [110784]

The number of children who were listed as being missing from care in England since 1997 is shown in the table. Excluding children looked after under a series of short-term placements, it is estimated that in 2001–02 some 82,200 children were looked after in public care at some time during the year.

Estimated number of looked after children who went missing from their usual place of residence at any time during the years ending 31 March 1998 to 20021
EnglandNumber
1997–98560
1998–99550
1999–2000540
2000–012940
2001–022960

1 Data describes the number of children who went missing not the number of missing person's incidents by any one child.

2 With effect from 1 April 2000, the definition of missing was changed from being absent for more than seven days to being absent for 24 hours or more.

Notes:

This table excludes all children looked after under a series of short-term placements.

"Children Missing from Care and Home—a guide to good practice" was issued to every English local authority in November 2002, under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970, which means that, except in exceptional circumstances, councils must follow its advice. The guidance requires that where a child in care is assessed to be missing, the authority responsible for their care must ensure that all is being done to locate them and return them to a place of safety. Where there is reason for an authority to be concerned that a child may go missing at the time that a care placement is made, then the guidance recommends that the authority should ensure that there is a proper "risk assessment" as to the likelihood of that child going missing. This assessment should lead to action being taken to minimise any potential risk. Each local authority must appoint a senior manager to be responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of its missing from care protocols and procedures.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what part his Department has played in respect of child protection issues in the Home Office taskforce on child protection and the internet. [110669]

The Department of Health has, at official level, been represented on the Home Office task force on child protection on the internet since its establishment in 2001.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what specialist assistance is available for child victims of trafficking for exploitation; what plans he has to ensure that social services staff have training on child trafficking; and if he will make a statement. [110787]

The provision of assistance and support to child victims of trafficking should be secured by local statutory services in response to identified needs, whether provided directly or through specialist agencies. The relevant statutory agencies include the immigration service, the police, social services and health, which, collectively, have the responsibility to safeguard and protect the health and welfare of vulnerable children and to prevent and detect crimes against them.The National Occupational Standards for Social Work were published by the training organisation for personal social services in 2002. The occupational standards describe the skills and knowledge social workers need in the area of child protection. It is for employers to ensure that their staff have these skills.