All local authorities are required to have procedures and processes in place to minimise the risk of children in care going missing. In April, we will bring in revised national minimum standards for children’s homes, which will strengthen the national guidance on this issue.
In Greater Manchester, more than half of all missing incidents involve children from children’s homes. According to a recent Barnardo’s report, many of those children are at risk from paedophile and criminal gangs. Will the Minister consider issuing statutory guidance to local safeguarding boards, asking them to monitor all incidents of children going missing and share that information with other agencies, such as Ofsted, so that action can be taken to reduce the number of children going missing and the risk to them?
The hon. Lady makes a good point and I pay tribute to her work as chair of the all-party group on runaway and missing children and adults. I am looking closely at the Barnardo’s report with the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (James Brokenshire). This is a serious issue, but, without being complacent, I should say that the incidence of children running away from children’s homes has been reducing over the past few years. The figures are calculated on the basis of those who are missing for more than 24 hours, but in fact most children return within 48 hours. It is something that I will continue to look at.