Poverty and Inequality

17.12.18

‘Ongoing hidden scandal’ as hundreds of children go missing from local authority care

Hundreds of trafficked children under the care of local authorities in the UK last year have reportedly gone missing, according to new research from charities.

The report, seen by the Observer, shows that of the 1,015 children reported by local authorities as suspected or identified victims of trafficking, 24% have gone missing from the care system in 2017.

With a total of 5,780 unaccompanied and trafficked children reported as being in the care of local authorities last year, the findings raise serious concerns about the capacity of local authorities to care for vulnerable children who often arrive in the UK alone or rescued from trafficking gangs.

The two charities who published the report, Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT) and Missing People, discovered that the number of trafficked children under council care in 2017 had increased by 8% from 2014-15, and that 15% of unaccompanied children had also gone missing.

Catherine Baker, co-author of the report from ECPAT, claimed that it was “an ongoing hidden scandal that so many child-trafficking victims and unaccompanied children continue to be failed by the UK care system.”

The findings come from Freedom of Information requests to 217 local authorities with responsibilities for social care in the UK.

Overall, the report discovered that 190 out of the 276 trafficked children reported missing from care last year have not yet been found.

The co-author of the Missing People report, Jane Hunter, commented: “Trafficked children are going missing at a rate of more than 30 times that of other children, and more than double that of other looked-after children.

“This is happening despite government attempts to improve the system of identifying trafficked children through the national referral mechanism (NRM).”

She said there were 2,118 children referred to the NRM in 2017, a rise of 66% on the previous year, but argued that the true number of trafficked children was likely to be much higher based on UK Government estimates.

Hunter added: “Trafficked and unaccompanied children are particularly vulnerable, and may go missing back into a highly exploitative situation to those they were trafficked by or others.”

Image credit - linephoto

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