Reports of Hackney’s children in care going missing on the rise

The number of children in care going missing is rising in Hackney. Photo: Dan Hodges/Barnardos

The number of children in care going missing is rising in Hackney. Photo: Dan Hodges/Barnardos - Credit: Dan Hodges/Barnardos

Reports of children in care going missing across Hackney has risen by more than a third in a year, the Gazette can reveal.

In 2015, 533 youngsters went missing, compared to 388 the previous year. Twelve of those were gone for more than a month before returning.

A Gazette Freedom of Information request obtained the figures from Hackney Council, though the interim director of children’s services Steve Liddicott said the rise was a reflection of more reliable reporting since 2014.

Reasons the children went missing ranged from problems at home and pressures at school to more extreme cases like child sexual exploitation (CSE), mental health problems or gang involvement.

Though the more extreme issues were factors in only a small number of cases, they were potential risks in many.

Of the 533, 202 were boys and 331 were girls. The youngest were aged 12, with 16 the most common age.

Most children went missing for between one and three days, though Lucy Holmes of national charity Missing People said children in care missing for just an hour should set the alarm bells ringing.

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The research manager at the charity said “push and pull factors” led children astray, and revealed one in eight sleep rough while missing.

She said: “Push factors include something going wrong in their life and pull factors range from child sexual exploitation and gang activity to breaking curfews.

“Children in care are targeted by gangs to sell drugs because they are more vulnerable, it’s very sophisticated. They are also disproportionately vulnerable to be groomed or exploited and going missing is an indicator.

“Even if it’s only an hour a couple of times a week, it should be ringing alarm bells.”