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Parliamentary inquiry launched into ‘sent away’ children

‘Record numbers of children go missing after being farmed out to distant children’s homes’

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults has launched a Parliamentary inquiry into the record numbers of children who go missing after being 'farmed out' to live in children's homes miles away.

The group is concerned that there is growing evidence that a 'sent away generation' of vulnerable youngsters are in danger of falling prey to paedophiles and drugs gangs.

One thousand more individual children in out of area placements have gone missing from children's homes since 2015, according to new Department for Education figures released by Ann Coffey MP, who will chair the inquiry. This has more than doubled from 990 in 2015 to 1,990 in 2018 and compares to a 31 per cent increase for children who go missing from children's homes within their own borough.

The inquiry, which is supported by The Children's Society, will focus on the risks faced by children and young people who go missing from out of area placements and how their safety can be ensured. Evidence suggests that being uprooted and placed a long way from family, friends and social workers leaves children isolated and is often a factor that causes them to run away. They become 'sitting ducks' and are targeted and groomed for sexual and criminal exploitation, including being coerced into selling Class A drugs crack cocaine and heroin in 'County Lines' operations.

Ms Coffey has also written to all 43 police chief constables to ask for their observations about the link between out of area placements and children going missing and being targeted for sexual and criminal exploitation, especially 'County Lines'.

In 2012, the APPG conducted a parliamentary inquiry into children missing from care and raised concerns about the number of children in cross-boundary placements. 

The Government agreed to introduce measures in 2013 to reduce numbers. But despite this commitment, the situation has got worse and the number of 'sent away' children has increased to record levels. Latest figures show that:

The APPG is today calling for evidence from individuals, organisations and children who have been sent faraway places.

Ann Coffey, the chair of the APPG and the inquiry, said:

"It shames us all that thousands of vulnerable children continue to be farmed out to live miles and miles away from home despite a government promise to clampdown on numbers.

"The children's homes system is broken. It is catastrophically failing children and young people and is instead working in the interest of private providers.

"Most children's homes are bunched into three regions of the country with 25 per cent in the North West alone. Local authorities have their hands tied with little choice about where children should be placed because of the uneven distribution of children's homes.

"This is a shocking state of affairs."

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