Some police forces are still inappropriately classing all missing children from care only as absent, meaning the child is at “no apparent risk”.
Sixty per cent of incidents involving people going missing involve children, a report by the UK Missing Persons Bureau has found.
The Missing Persons Data Report 2015/2016 states that there were 207,747 incidents and 125,084 of those related to children. There were 82,106 incidents involving adults and in the remaining 557 incidents, the age of the person was unknown.
“Children only account for 21% of the population, indicating they are disproportionately more likely to be reported as missing than adults,” said the report.
The data shows that the number of children reported missing starts to rise sharply from the age of 12-14 and drops when the person reaches 18. Of the children reported missing:
- 93% were aged 12-17 years
- nearly two thirds (58%; 72,818) were aged 15-17years old
- 62% of whom (41,378) are girls
These figures are in line with 2014/15 data.
Population estimates show boys and girls aged between 12-17 years account for 31% each of the male and female child population, and only six per cent of the general population. When compared with the total incidents, this indicates that a disproportionately high number of 12-17 year olds were reported as going missing.
The report found that a greater number of police forces have been able to indicate how many incidents relate to those missing from care than in previous years, with only 23 police forces able to show data for both adult and child incident and individuals in 2014/15 in comparison to 29 police forces in 2015/16.
These 29 police forces recorded 43,270 incidents, and 89% of 43,270 incidents involving those in care were children.
Railway Children welcomes the findings of the Missing Persons Data Report as an important step in addressing previous 'inconsistencies' in policing identified by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which, it says, has hindered efforts by local authorities and police when responding to young people going missing. It also welcomes evidence in the report that suggests the reporting and recording of missing cases has improved.
However, the findings from the NCA report reveal a number of concerns still remain regarding missing children, who account for 60% of all missing incidents.
Andy McCullough, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, at Railway Children, said: “Thirty-five per cent of missing persons are aged 15-17, so it is worrying that the NCA report has identified some police forces to be still inappropriately classing all missing children from care only as absent, meaning the child is at “no apparent risk”, when the reality is they could be at serious risk of harm. A quick and accurate assessment of risk is essential to ensuring vulnerable children get the help they need at the right time.”
The NCA report also acknowledges that while the recording practices for missing people incidents by police forces have improved, greater consistency is still required.
“It is vital for police forces to gather reliable and consistent data that can be shared across police lines to fully understand the underlying reasons why a child goes missing, with a focus on prevention and early intervention,” said Andy McCullough.
Railway Children continues to call for a separate inquiry into local authority provision of return home interviews. These interviews – a requirement under statutory guidance - are crucial in understanding why children go missing and how vulnerable they are, yet a significant number of local authorities continue to fail to offer this support.