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Children In Care: Missing Persons

Volume 494: debated on Wednesday 24 June 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families (1) pursuant to the answer of 12 June 2009, Official Report, column 1067W, how many of the children who have gone missing from care have not been found; (281167)

(2) what steps the Government is taking to reduce the number of children who go missing from care homes.

Following a consultation, the Government plan to publish revised statutory guidance about children missing from home or care shortly. This will set out the steps that must be followed whenever any child in care goes missing. This includes the local authority working with partner agencies such as the police, so that there is a systematic response whenever a child in care goes missing from their care placement.

The National Minimum Standards for Children’s Homes and Fostering Services require that all homes and fostering services should have explicit procedures to follow when children in their care may be missing or absent. We will be strengthening these Standards later this year and will include more specific guidance on action which should be taken when a child goes missing from a residential or foster home.

The Government have also launched the Young Runaways Action Plan. This brings together cross- Government action on children who run away from home or care and places particular emphasis on vulnerable children such as those who have been trafficked. More generally, a national indicator on young runaways, introduced in April this year, now requires LAs to have in place protocols for the inter-agency response to run-aways and missing children, including preventative measures.

The requested information on the number of children who have gone missing from care who have not been found is not held centrally by the Department. It is not possible to derive the number of children missing from care who have never been found, because we can only account for the situation at the end of the last completed data collection year. Children missing at the end of the data year may subsequently return into care. Information on looked after children can be found in “Statistical First Release Children looked after in England (including adoption and care leavers) year ending 31 March 2008”, which is available on the Department’s website via the following link:

http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/rsgateway/DB/SFR/s000810/index.shtml

Table A3 shows the number looked after at 31 March each year by their placement type at 31 March, which includes a category to show those looked after who were absent from their agreed placement at that time. At 31 March 2008, the number absent from their agreed placement was 150.