London councils lack data on children missing from care, finds report

Liberal Democrat report finds serious gaps in data on runaway looked-after children in London

Photo: Rex Features (posed by model)

At least 26 children looked after by London boroughs are missing from care and many boroughs hold incomplete data on the numbers of runaways, according to a Liberal Democrat report.

The party’s London Assembly group used the Freedom of Information Act to ask 32 London boroughs how many children were missing from care.

It found that at the time responses were received at least 26 children under the care of 21 boroughs had been missing for more than 24 hours and that many London authorities lacked robust data on the number of runaways.

Caroline Pidgeon, the Liberal Democrats’ police and crime spokeswoman for the London Assembly, said the findings were “nothing short of a disgrace”.

“The results sadly speak for themselves, revealing that a serious problem exists in every part of London,” she said.

“Whether it is the high number of recorded missing children from so many boroughs, or the failure of some London boroughs to even have accessible data on record relating to the children they are legally responsible for in terms of care and protection.”

“There is a high number of recorded missing children from boroughs across every part of London. But even worse there is a failure of a few London boroughs to even have accessible data on record relating to the children they are legally responsible for in terms of care and legal protection.”

She said that the findings were especially worrying in light of the Rochdale child sexual exploitation scandal and the Metropolitan Police’s recent confirmation that at least 10 criminal groups were targeting children for sexual abuse in the capital.

Pidgeon’s report calls on local authorities to introduce new data collection systems and to ensure they are monitoring the numbers of and responses to children going missing from care.

It says councils should produce annual reports that state the number of children placed out of authority and how many go missing, and called on London mayor Boris Johnson to challenge councils on the issue.

Of the 26 children missing who had been missing for more than 24 hours at the time figures were provided, 15 were in placements within their London boroughs.

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One Response to London councils lack data on children missing from care, finds report

  1. DK April 16, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Having worked in social services out of hours in a large county myself I know that this is a difficult issue. Often the day teams are told that a cild has absconded and it is not recorded on their notes, and then there is always the issue around whether a child in ‘missing’ or simply ‘unauthorised’, missing is when the location of the child is not known, however many carers will often advise a child is unauthorised when they have not even checked that the address even exists, debates with carers are frequent, especially with carers of frequent absconders who advise that the social worker has told them that they do not need to report the child missing, even when there is a strong likelihood that they will be involved with criminal behaviour, putting them at risk of ending up in prison if nothing else.