The scandal of London’s missing Looked After Children is now painfully clear

The high number of children who go missing for 24 hours or more from the care of London local authorities has been revealed in the report Looked After Children: Missing From Care, published today by Caroline Pidgeon AM, Leader of the Liberal Democrat London Assembly Group.

Through freedom of information requests made to every London borough, detailed information has been gathered showing that in every part of London there is a serious problem with runaway children who are in the legal care of local authorities.

The report reveals that there is not only a serious problem with looked after children missing within their boroughs, but an even bigger problem with missing looked after children that have been placed in foster care or specialist care outside of the borough.

And while the detailed figures provided from most London Boroughs are disturbing, the report exposes an even greater problem that a few London Boroughs have no real idea of the actual number of children that are at risk, with some London Boroughs unable to even provide figures on the number of missing looked after children.

Caroline Pidgeon, commenting on the figures revealed in her report, said:

“The scandal of London’s missing looked after children is now painfully clear.

“There is a high number of recorded missing children from boroughs across every part of London. But even worse there is a failure of a few London Boroughs to even have accessible data on record relating to the children they are legally responsible for in terms of care and legal protection.

“A local authority looked after child who goes missing for 24 hours or more is immediately at serious risk, including at worse the risk of physical abuse. As Scotland Yard have recently confirmed there are across the capital at least 10 organised criminal syndicates targeting girls and boys for sexual abuse. Inevitably many of these gangs will target runaway children, a significant proportion of whom are local authority looked after children.

“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.

“It is time that all councils in London actively gathered data on children going missing and then used this information to put policies in place to keep children safe. In every part of London real improvements could be made in improving the safety of children who are in the care of local authorities.”

Some specific findings of the report include:

Barnet: In 2013 had 29 different Looked After Children placed inside their borough go missing from care for more than 24 hours with 120 incidents of these children going missing for more than 24 hours.

Brent: In 2013 had 14 Looked After Children in placements outside their borough go missing from care for more than 24 hours with 81 incidents of these children going missing for more than 24 hours.

Lewisham: Sent figures for Looked After Children that had gone missing from their care whose location had never been recorded. In 2009 there were 10 such children missing for 24 hours or more and 21 recorded incidents of these children being missing for 24 hours or more.

Waltham Forest: Has only been recording the data on Looked After Children who have gone missing from their care since 2010

Bromley, Greenwich and Southwark Councils have refused to respond to the freedom of information requests at the time of the publication of the report.

Some other councils including Bexley and Hillingdon refused to answer the freedom of information request, claiming that retrieving such data would be too expensive.

Read the full report here.

You can read more about this issue at This Is Local London (which focuses on Lewisham), the Croydon Advertiser, the Kilburn Times, and the Ilford Recorder.