Hundreds of vulnerable children – including a baby boy less than a year old – in the care of social services are going missing and are at risk of paedophiles and drug gangs, we can reveal.
A WalesOnline investigation found at least 115 individual children under the care of local authorities have been reported missing on nearly 1,700 occasions since January 2015.
Figures obtained through freedom of information requests found dozens of children in care were reported missing between January 2015 and May 2017 in at least 1,695 separate missing incidents, with some children going missing on multiple occasions.
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.
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” children in care across Wales are going missing as they are “facing a serious risk of abuse, harm or exploitation on the streets”