Children represented approximately two thirds of the estimated 360,000 missing person incidents in 2009–10. Children in care are three times more likely to go missing from their home than children who are not in care.1 However, due to the unreliability of available data, it is likely that the true scale of the problem is not fully understood.
A number of recent high-profile court cases concerning child sexual exploitation and high-profile inquiries have highlighted the vulnerability of children who go missing, and the associated risks of sexual exploitation. The government published proposals to tackle child sexual exploitation in November 2011 and announced urgent action to look at the quality of residential care for looked after children in July 2012.2 This report explores the effectiveness of arrangements to safeguard children and young people, including those who are looked after by the local authority, who are at risk of going missing or running away from home. Inspectors visited a sample of 10 local authority areas. The report draws on evidence from 105 cases and from the views of children and young people, carers, and professionals from the local authority and from partner agencies.
The complex and varied reasons identified on a national basis why children go missing were reflected in the nature of the cases seen by inspectors. Children’s
histories included inadequate parenting, past or current abuse, bullying and domestic violence. Some children who were looked after had experienced several placement moves. Children who went missing were subjected to considerable associated risk, most often from sexual exploitation, drug and alcohol abuse, and becoming the victim or perpetrator of crime.