Brent tops ‘missing children in care’ list

Caroline Pidgeon MBE is the leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group,

Caroline Pidgeon MBE is the leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, - Credit: Archant

Brent has the highest number of cases where children in care went missing for less than a day in the last five years, new figures reveal,

According to a report compiled by the London Assembly Liberal Democrats there were 252 incidents involving youngsters in care who were placed outside the borough between 2009 to this year.

This is the highest out of the 21 local authorities in London who provided figures in response to a Freedom of Information request.

Neighbouring boroughs Barnet and Ealing had 159 and 14 cases, respectively, during the same time frame.

Last year alone there were 81 cases involving 34 children who were placed out of the borough going missing - the highest in the city.

According to Government guidance on the issue children in care who run away are “particularly vulnerable” and at risk of sexual exploitation.

Caroline Pidgeon MBE, leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group, said: “A local authority looked after child who goes missing for 24 hours or more is at serious risk, including at risk of physical abuse.

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“The widespread failure to keep some of the most vulnerable children in our society safe while they are in the legal care of a local authority is nothing short of a disgrace.”

An Ofsted report published last year highlighted concerns about all local authorities’ work on missing children in care. It found that risk management plans were inadequate, placements were unstable and follow-up checks after the children returned to care were not taking place.

Sara Williams, acting director for children and families at Brent Council, told the Times the issue was looked at very seriously with individual cases being monitored and action taken on a daily basis.

She added: “Each absence is carefully risk assessed and we work closely with the police and the child’s carer to locate each child and return them as quickly as possible.

“We also have a multi-agency approach to working out what the underlying issues are, why the child has gone missing from care and what can be done to prevent it happening again.

“The figures show that this is not by any means just a problem in Brent. Our looked after children often have complex problems but are also often keen to return to their birth family, even if this has been identified to be against their interests.”

Freedom of Information requests were sent to all 32 London borough councils.

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