London police are receiving 70 reports a day of London’s runaway children: urgent action needed, research by The Children’s Society reveals. The charity provides one-to-one support for runaways.
The new report titled Safeguarding Children and Young People Who Go Missing in London shows the Metropolitan Police recorded 25,622 incidents of a child going missing from home or care in the 12 months to March 2015.
The figures were uncovered through Freedom of Information requests and is warning that without action to combat the problem, thousands of the London’s most vulnerable young people will be left at greater risk from sexual exploitation and gangs.
The report finds that children in care are far more likely to go missing than those living in family homes. Worryingly, children who are moved away to council or foster homes (often miles away from their family and friends) are at the highest risk of all.
Children and young people make up more than half of all missing persons cases reported to police, with 12-17 year olds most likely to run away. Earlier research has shown that one in four young runaways are either hurt or harmed when away from home, with runaways much more likely to be sexually exploited.
The Children’s Society wants every child who goes missing to be given an independent one-to-one interview when they return to find out why they ran away and what support they need before they find themselves in greater danger.
The charity is also calling for the Government to set up a national missing person’s database to make sure that data is properly collected and shared. It says more needs to be done to take account of what children in care want before decisions are taken to move them far from their home, friends and family.
Sherry Peck, Area Director for The Children’s Society in London, said:
‘Children who go missing from home or care are some of the most vulnerable children in our society. They are often running from neglect and abuse, conflict, family breakdown and parental drug and alcohol misuse. Sometimes they are under the influence of predatory adults seeking to exploit them.
‘Too often the serious issues they are running from do not get identified and addressed early enough. Without urgent action to provide better help early on, more children will go missing, again and again, exposing them to serious and increasing risk of sexual exploitation and other crimes.’