Number of runaway children in Thurrock soars

THE number of runaway children in care in Thurrock has risen by 84 per cent, latest figures show.

Between October and December last year, there were 173 “missing episodes” involving 32 children compared to the previous year when 23 children went missing on 94 occasions

Despite a raft of measures put in place to try to combat the problem, including return home interviews, the problem continues to grow for the borough.

Thurrock has approximately 300 looked after children and 314 care leavers who are monitored regularly. The figures for children in care are broadly in line with other similar sized local authorities.

A report to the corporate parenting committee which will meet on Tuesday said the most common reason for children going missing was contact with family and friends, representing 45 percent of missing episodes in the last quarter of 2021.

The report said: “Children and young people are visited regularly and the management of missing children is consistent and reflects good partnership with the police and Thurrock Community Safety.

“The work with health colleagues continues to ensure that there is a positive focus on Initial Health Assessments for children entering into care.”

The borough provided care for six new unaccompanied asylum seeking children over the same period.

Ofsted rated Thurrock children’s services as Good in 2019 but recommended improvements, including closer monitoring of children at risk of criminal or sexual exploitation and return home interviews with children who have absconded and reappeared so they can talk about their experience.

The council has previously highlighted difficulties in preventing asylum seeking youngsters from absconding because of often pre-arranged contacts with family in the country.

Local authorities are allocated the number of asylum seeking children that they must take. Thurrock’s allocated number is 31 children.

There was a reduction in the entry of such children into Essex Ports in 2020 to 2021 as the preferred route appears to have been through Dover.

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