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Government pledges to publish urgent ‘next steps’ in response to APPG report on children missing from care

Local authority groups respond to the report

In the wake of the APPG report into children who go missing from care, Children's Minister Tim Loughton acknowledged that the report highlights serious weaknesses in the current system. He said that the government is looking in detail at all the issues raised and will set out urgent next steps in the coming weeks. 

He added:

"It is wrong for local agencies not to have a grip on how many children are going missing from care nor for proper alarms to be raised and action taken when teenagers run away multiple times. We tightened up the regulations in 2011 so it is alarming that so many children are still being placed in care miles away from their homes – which do not meet their needs, and without the proper checks; care plans put in place; or even the local social workers told.  It is shocking to hear that any professional could think that teenagers at risk of being physically or sexually abused are making lifestyle choices of their own volition, rather than being the victims of crime. And the report raises important concerns about how the current inspection and regulatory framework for children's homes could be improved.

"After the Rochdale case, we asked the Deputy Children's Commissioner Sue Berelowitz to report urgently to us on the emerging findings from her own ongoing, extensive two-year inquiry on gang and group sexual exploitation – with detailed recommendations on how to keep young people in children's homes safe from this appalling abuse. We will publish this within weeks and set out robust next steps in toughening up the system and addressing the concerns raised.

"We have set out a clear national plan on tackling child sexual exploitation. We are already seeing progress on the ground and will publish a detailed update report together with an accessible step-by-step guide for frontline practitioners on what to do if they suspect a child is being sexually exploited."

Responding to the APPG report, Debbie Jones, President of the Association of Directors of Children's Services said:

"It is important to note, as the report does, that there are good reasons why a child might be placed far from home – for example if they are at risk of exploitation or trafficking in their local area. Choosing the right placement is more important than adhering to a blanket rule that children should be placed locally. Providing support services for these children requires good communication between local authorities and other agencies that can only partly be enforced by regulations and procedures – well-trained and committed staff who understand their responsibilities are crucial to managing this process effectively." 

Councillor David Simmonds, Chairman of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, said:

"This report highlights the complexities of the present system and the need for an overhaul. 

"Government needs to play its part and ensure that independent care homes report new sites to individual councils by law. We also need a single agreed definition of the term 'missing' for all agencies to work to, so that we have a clearer picture of the problem.

"Council-run care homes make up only a quarter of the care system and local authorities have to rely solely on Ofsted ratings for independent homes. A rigorous review of the rating system is required so that councils can be assured they are placing children in adequate and safe surroundings."

The report can be read here