Hertfordshire County Council third in country for number of children missing from care

Herts County Council

Herts County Council - Credit: Archant

A county council has come under fire after a request under the Freedom of Information Act revealed more than 200 children in care have gone missing.

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) was ranked third of 138 councils in England and Wales for the number of children who went missing while under its care between January, 2012, and December, 2013.

The figure of 209 cases was higher only for Kent County Council – where 458 children went missing – and Nottinghamshire County Council, where 215 children in care disappeared.

Responding to the data, obtained by The Times, Tom Rahilly, head of strategy and development at children’s charity NSPCC, said: “Children who go missing from care are at great risk of drug and alcohol use, violence and sexual exploitation and our work shows that not enough is being done to understand why children go missing from care.

“It is vital that more is done to give these children a voice so they can explain what is happening to them and we can learn the reasons why they go missing.”

Richard Roberts, cabinet member for children’s services at HCC, said: “We take our responsibilities in this area very seriously and have worked hard with the police and other partners to improve the procedures we have in place for finding missing children.

“We have also improved our systems for detecting missing children. Along with the fact that Hertfordshire is a large county, this explains in part why the number of cases is relatively high.

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“In some cases, children are classed as having gone missing when in fact they may have simply returned to their home later than expected. Nevertheless, we have a multi-agency panel which looks at all reported cases and where necessary puts measures in place to try and prevent repeat occurrences.

“There has been a significant reduction in the number of missing children since we improved our procedures, and we will continue to work hard to bring down the number of cases. If anyone has any concerns about a missing child, please do not hesitate to contact the police.”

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