DAVID CHURCHILL Wednesday 9 March 2016
The Met receives dozens of calls about missing children each day
An average of more than 70 London children are being reported missing to Scotland Yard every day, research has revealed.
The shocking tally sparked warnings from child protection experts who say under-18s going missing, particularly those in care, are increasingly at risk of child sexual exploitation unless support services are stepped up.
The report, based on Freedom of Information requests to the Metropolitan Police and 32 London local authorities, reveals
Scotland Yard recorded 25,622 incidents of children going missing from care or home in the last complete financial year, the most recent data available.
Separate figures from London town halls suggest child sexual exploitation is the biggest danger facing vulnerable young people, with up to 24 per cent at risk. Up to 17 per cent were identified as being at risk of falling into crime with up to five per cent at risk of getting drawn into gangs.
The fresh statistics, contained in a report by The Children’s Society, show the scale of the challenge facing social services and police across London.
Larger proportions of young people are at risk in the capital, according to the charity, due to higher levels of deprivation, with children most likely to run away from home or be placed in care after being exposed to domestic violence, parental alcohol and drug use or other forms of violence and abuse.
The report found around 60 per cent of children looked after by London local authorities are placed in care outside their home borough, prompting the charity to call for more to be placed within their home local authority.
It added that, despite local authorities having a statutory responsibility to conduct “return interviews” within 72 hours of a child being located, not all children who go missing receive them. They often do not receive them if classified as “absent” rather than missing. It called for all local authorities to adopt the strategy to better identify the risks every vulnerable young person faces.
The Met today said it on average investigates up to 43,000 missing people cases every year, around 22,000 of which are under-18s.
A spokesman said: “Each report of a missing person is recorded, risk assessed and investigated. They are graded as high, medium or low risk, which determines the level of response and resources allocated. Investigations start as soon as a report is made and the majority of missing people are located within one day, safe and well. Those that are not remain as open cases and are subject to regular review and action.”
Sherry Peck, London director at The Children’s Society, said: “Without action to provide better help early on, more children will go missing, exposing them to increasing risk of sexual exploitation and other crimes. Too often the issues they are running from do not get addressed early enough.
“On the streets young people are more likely to be befriended by adults who appear to offer what they want and give them an escape, but in reality they are looking to exploit them.”
Scotland Yard records children as absent for a maximum of 24 hours before they are upgraded to missing. All under-13s are recorded as missing. The report found each missing person investigation costs police on average between £1,325 and £2,415.