January 16, 2016
Source: Birmingham mail
Report urges more ‘joined up’ working between police, social workers, schools and other agencies to deal with missing children.
Up to 15 children a day are being reported missing from home in Birmingham EVERY DAY according to police and social services figures.
The huge numbers are putting the police and council under incredible pressure, as each one must be investigated.
Police revealed that they looked at about 1,000 missing children cases between January and September last year, many of them running away time and again.
The three most persistent runaways, all in care, ran away 34 times between them over a three month period.
The vast majority are found and returned very quickly, a review set up in the wake of a damning Ofsted report on Birmingham Children’s Services, has found.
Most runaways are children either in care homes or living with foster families – and the most vulnerable are often at risk of being groomed by predatory paedophiles or gangs and forced into crime or prostitution.
The council inquiry has now called for closer working between police, social workers, schools and the Children’s Society Charity – which carries out independent return interviews with the most vulnerable children.
Inquiry chairman councillor Barry Bowles (Lab, Hall Green) said: “We found that people were doing their best to help missing children, but the work just wasn’t joined up.”
In particular organisations have been reluctant to share confidential records on vulnerable children for security reasons.
“A figure which surprised me was that 12 per cent of children reported missing still turn up to school – probably because their friends are there. It shows that the schools are not being informed or aren’t picking it up.
“Children will disappear from home or care or foster families, but we can do more to prevent them doing it over and over.”
We have been very firm with the agencies that they have to sort this out, or else we will come back with a set of stronger guidelines.
“I am optimistic we can move forward,” he added.
The report found that there is a risk that children placed in care outside the city, often to move them away from gang influence or their abusers, do not get the same level of support as those within Birmingham.
There are 92 children in Birmingham care homes and 73 in residential homes outside the city. There are a further 1,309 children with foster carers, of which 656 are based outside the city.
The cross party report found that while the council had been focused on tackling child sexual exploitation in the wake of the Rotherham grooming scandal it had neglected the problem of children missing from home and care.
Coun Matt Bennett (Cons, Edgbaston), who worked on the inquiry, said: “This report was an eye-opener. It showed we are not capable of dealing with two problems, in this case two related problems, at once. And children’s services involves a series of complex problems.”
Councillors were also urged to take their responsibilities as corporate parents seriously and regularly visit care homes in the city.
The council leadership and the have both agreed to the recommendations of the report.
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