LABOUR AM, KEN SKATES, has expressed his concern at the numbers of looked after children in North Wales who go missing from looked after care.
A Freedom of Information Request by the NSPCC revealed that last year North Wales Police recorded 510 incidents of being asked to look for missing children from care. 88 of these children went missing more than once.
Across Wales 1,796 children and teenagers went missing from care in the North Wales, Gwent and Dyfed Powys Police force areas.
The NSPCC statistics show Police forces in England and Wales recorded over 28,000 incidents of children going missing from care with some children running away dozens of times. One vanished on 67 occasions.
Clwyd South AM KEN SKATES said:
“I’m very concerned at the numbers of children who go missing from care. When it happens it puts them at increased risk of harm, and we need a more focused effort to find out why individual young people go missing.
“As the corporate parent for looked after children the state has a responsibility to ensure that children are protected and safe in whatever setting they live.
“In North Wales there were 510 incidents of children going missing from care with 88 going missing more than once. There are a lot of agencies in North Wales doing really good work with looked after children, but we have to bring these numbers down and improve ways of preventing it from happening.
“Obviously children go missing for many reasons, often because they are being bullied or when they’ve been placed a big distance from home. Some will have been abused before being placed in care and they need a high degree of protection to ensure they don’t go back to an inappropriate setting.
“Repeatedly going missing from care needs to be seen by all professionals as a sign that children are at heightened risk of harm. Going missing for just an hour or two can be long enough for children in care to get into real danger.”
The Freedom of Information request from the NSPCC revealed that Police received, on average, more than 75 reports a day of children missing from care across England and Wales.
However this is still believed to be a drastic under-estimate of the scale of the problem as it is thought less than half of all cases are reported to Police and only 29 out of 43 of England and Wales forces contacted responded in full to the FOI.
Ken Skates is currently working with the Welsh Government to develop a scheme to allow Looked After Children to remain with their foster carers after the age of 18.
The figures were obtained by the NSPCC through Freedom of Information requests to police forces in England and Wales.
• Recorded 510 incidents of being asked to look for missing children from care.
• 88 of these children went missing more than once.
• Recorded 999 incidence of being asked to look for missing children from care.
• 99 of these children went missing more than once.
• Recorded 287 incidents of being asked to look for missing children from care.
South Wales Police
• Did not respond