650 incidents of vulnerable children in care going missing
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