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Ministers to give evidence to Parliamentary inquiry into children missing from care

Final session of inquiry will also hear from Children’s Services representatives

Following the widely publicised imprisonment of nine men involved in a sexual grooming network which exploited vulnerable teenage girls, the Parliamentary inquiry into children missing from care will hear evidence from two government ministers.

Tim Loughton, the Minister for Children and Families and Lynne Featherstone, the Minister for Equalities and Criminal Information, will give evidence to the final session of the Parliamentary Inquiry on May 10. The inquiry is being held by two All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs) – the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers.

The Children's Society says that figures suggest that hundreds of girls in children's homes are being sexually abused by organised networks of men. England's children's homes, which care for 1,800 girls, have recorded 631 incidents of girls being sold for sex during the past five years, including 187 during the past 10 months.

The charity adds that running away or going missing from home is a key indicator that a child might be involved in sexual grooming and children in care are three times more likely to run away than children living at home. When they go missing, they place themselves in great danger of being physically or sexually abused. 

Anne Coffey MP, Chair of the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults said:

"In previous evidence sessions we have heard harrowing evidence of what happens when children go missing from care and the physical and sexual abuse they encounter. We are looking forward to hearing from the two ministers about what the government and other agencies can do to help protect the most vulnerable children in our land.

"We know that Children in care are three times more likely to run away than children living at home and that missing is a key indicator in sexual abuse.

"Far too many children who run away or go missing from care become victims of sexual and physical abuse and exploitation. One child in this situation is one child too many. Every child who has to appear in court as a victim of sexual exploitation is a failure of the system to prevent harm.

"The Rochdale experience clearly demonstrates the need for local agencies to work together and share information. It is imperative that professionals are aware of the strong links between going missing and child sexual exploitation so that they are able to identify the signs early and prevent absue from taking place. Based on the comprehensive evidence submitted to the Inquiry, we will provide practical recommendations that can make a real impact on the lives of thousands of the very vulnerable children who run away from care every year."

The inquiry comprises of four oral evidence sessions including one focussing on child trafficking, others on issues around runaways. A report is set to be published in the summer. Senior representatives from the Local Government Association and the Association of Directors of Children's Services will also give evidence at the final session of the Inquiry.

The inquiry is supported by The Children's Society and The Who Cares? Trust.