There were more than 23,000 ‘missing incidents’ involving children in residential homes in England in 2017, it has emerged.
In response to a parliamentary question, it was revealed that between 2015 and 2017, there had been more than 50,000 reports of children missing from children’s homes.
The figures, published in response to a question tabled by Labour MP Ann Coffey, show that in 2015 a total of 13,040 missing incidents were recorded, rising to 17,910 in 2016. In 2017, this rose to 23,750.
The Department for Education warned that the data was collected for the first time in 2015 and “should be treated with caution” as “local councils’ recording of this information is improving over time” – which could be the reason for the increase.
Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "These statistics are experimental statistics based on data collected for the first time in 2015 and should be treated with caution as local councils' recording of this information is improving over time.
"The figures are therefore not comparable between years and any assessment of trends should take this into account. The information provided does not mean that the number of children going missing is increasing in the volumes indicated in the table.
"Local councils have improved their reporting of missing incidents through increased collaboration with partner organisations and carers, updated recording systems, and further training for carers to improve understanding of reporting processes."
The Department said it would assess the statistics next year to see if they could be considered “robust enough” to be classed as national statistics rather than ‘experimental data’.
Children who go missing from care are vulnerable and at risk of child sexual exploitation, being recruited for ‘county lines’ or gangs.