650 in­ci­dents of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in care go­ing miss­ing

Cynon Valley - - YOUR NEWS - THOMAS DEACON thomas.deacon@waleson­line.co.uk

HUN­DREDS of in­ci­dents of vul­ner­a­ble chil­dren in the care of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties go­ing miss­ing have been recorded, we can re­veal.

Over the pe­riod be­tween Jan­uary 2015 and May this year, dozens of lookedafter chil­dren in the care of Brid­gend, Caer­philly, Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and the Vale of Glam­or­gan coun­cils were recorded as miss­ing on a to­tal of 650 sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions.

Merthyr Tyd­fil coun­cil did not pro­vide fig­ures fol­low­ing our Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest.

Caer­philly coun­cil’s re­sponse re­vealed teenage girls and boys as young as 14 were miss­ing for as long as sev­eral weeks at a time, in­clud­ing a boy miss­ing through­out the whole of last Christ­mas.

In Cardiff, chil­dren as young as 12 were recorded miss­ing, while a 15-yearold girl was listed as miss­ing for more than nine months.

Brid­gend coun­cil – which recorded the sec­ond-high­est num­ber of miss­ing in­ci­dents in Wales, with 385 re­lat­ing to 60 in­di­vid­ual chil­dren – said its data only cov­ered the pe­riod since July 31, 2015, as the author­ity “did not be­gin cap­tur­ing in­for­ma­tion on miss­ing chil­dren in a con­sis­tent way” un­til then.

There were 160 miss­ing in­ci­dents recorded in Rhondda Cynon Taff, 73 in the Vale of Glam­or­gan, 21 in Caer­philly, and 11 in Cardiff. Through­out the whole of Wales there were at least 1,695 miss­ing in­ci­dents recorded, with those re­lat­ing to a min­i­mum of 115 chil­dren.

Ac­cord­ing to data from the Na­tional Crime Agency, 43% of miss­ing chil­dren in­ci­dents in Wales in the 2015-16 fi­nan­cial year re­lated to chil­dren in care, who ac­count for fewer than 1% of the child pop­u­la­tion, go­ing miss­ing.

The lat­est Welsh Gov­ern­ment data showed that at March 31, 2016, a to­tal of 5,660 un­der the age of 18 were in the care of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties across the coun­try.

Ca­tri­ona Wil­liams, chief ex­ec­u­tive of char­ity Chil­dren in Wales, said it was “ex­tremely dan­ger­ous” that the where­abouts of chil­dren in care were po­ten­tially un­known, ad­ding that they were “par­tic­u­larly tar­geted” by pae­dophiles and drug deal­ers.

The NSPCC said the “wor­ry­ing sta­tis­tics” re­lated to chil­dren at “grave risk of fur­ther harm” while Chil­dren’s So­ci­ety pol­icy di­rec­tor Sam Roys­ton said it was “deeply wor­ry­ing” that chil­dren in care across Wales are go­ing miss­ing as they are “fac­ing a se­ri­ous risk of abuse, harm or ex­ploita­tion on the streets”.

A Cardiff coun­cil spokesman said: “Safe­guard­ing chil­dren is of the ut­most im­por­tance and Cardiff chil­dren’s ser­vices is vig­i­lant in en­sur­ing that all the ap­pro­pri­ate mea­sures nec­es­sary to safe­guard all chil­dren in our care are in place at all times. We are al­ways par­tic­u­larly con­cerned when chil­dren go miss­ing and we take ro­bust steps to find them and make sure they are safe.”

The spokesman added the author­ity takes a “ze­ro­tol­er­ance ap­proach” to the 385 21 650 is­sue and the 15-year-old miss­ing for nine months was an “ex­cep­tional al­though not unique” case.

The spokesman said: “The child was in fact never placed in care be­cause the fam­ily re­turned to their home in eastern Europe be­fore any place­ment could be made – she re­mained ‘tech­ni­cally’ in care only.

“Dur­ing that pe­riod we were able nev­er­the­less to lo­cate the child through the ser­vices of a pri­vate de­tec­tive and as­sure our­selves that she ap­peared safe and well and that the in-coun­try au­thor­i­ties had as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity there­after.”

A Caer­philly coun­cil spokesman said: “En­sur­ing the safety and well­be­ing of chil­dren in our care re­mains of the high­est pri­or­ity.”

Dozens of chil­dren in care were re­ported miss­ing be­tween Jan­uary 2015 and May 2017 ac­cord­ing to fig­ures ob­tained through a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion re­quest

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