Huge rise in the number of children going missing from residential homes run by Norfolk County Council
- Credit: Eastern Counties Newspapers
The number of children and young people reported missing overnight from council-run residential homes in Norfolk is on course to double this year.
Figures in service's annual report also show the total number of times children or young people go missing could nearly quadruple, with 81 absences recorded in 2012-13, compared to 156 in the first six months of this year.
The number of 'significant incidents' at homes that had to be reported to Ofsted rose from 59 last year to 65 in April to September 2013.
However, the report described the rise in overnight absences, from 25 last year to 24 in the first half of this year, as 'the most concerning increase', noting that 'these overnight absences are where children or young people are statistically most likely to be at risk of sexual exploitation'.
Earlier this year, Norfolk County Council's child protection arrangements and its service for looked after children were both branded 'inadequate' by Ofsted.
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However, the latter report said there was 'a good overview of all those children and young people who go missing from home and from care', and noted that nearly all the council's homes are ranked 'good' or 'outstanding' by inspectors.
A council spokesman said: 'We are accommodating a lot more older young people, over the age of 16. This age group is more likely to go missing or off on their own accord without permission more regularly than the younger age group.'
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He added: 'Multi-agency strategy meetings are held, which include the young person's social worker and the police, to review the individual circumstances and make sure appropriate steps are taken to ensure the young person's safety. Risk assessments are also carried out.
'The police also undertake 'safe and well' visits to looked after children who have been reported missing follow their return home.
'Ofsted have said that we are making 'good progress' on the government's action plan to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE). Senior managers in residential units have been involved in the development of the CSE strategy, which includes how to spot warning signs that a young person is being sexually exploited. This also helps professionals assess whether a young person is vulnerable to sexual exploitation.'