Ministers give evidence concerning children running away from care
The two ministers responsible for children going missing from care – Lynne Featherstone MP and Tim Loughton MP – appeared before a committee of MPs and peers late last week.
Tim Loughton admitted to an APPG inquiry that it was impossible to know the true extent or scale of the problem of children going missing from care. The data collected by police, care services and Ofsted was 'raw and erratic', the children’s minister said – and often not comparable.
Loughton spoke about the need to improve the quality of children’s homes while reflecting on the recent cases of child sexual exploitation, such as a sex exploitation ring in Rochdale.
Homes were too often seen as the last resort for the most challenging and vulnerable children rather than therapeutic places, the children’s minister said.
Updating plans to halt child sexual exploitation
Loughton updated the committee about his plans to publish a progress report on the child sexual exploitation action plan in the summer, and also publish revised and simplified guidance for local authorities about how to respond to children going missing from home or care.
If necessary, he said that the government would undertake a review of children’s homes and might also introduce tougher rules and new legislation.
Featherstone: Improve data collection, share between agencies
Lynne Featherstone also gave evidence to the committee regarding police responses to children who go missing form care. The equalities minister agreed with Loughton about the need to improve data collection of children who go missing and to more effectively share it between agencies.
She also defended the police pilots that her department are currently running, which use a new definition of 'missing'. These are meant to reduce bureaucracy for the police, but other witnesses have raised concerns that they may not properly safeguard children and that other police forces were adopting the new approach out before independent evaluation has taken place.
Wide coverage and other sessions
The inquiry has received extensive media coverage, including in articles in The Daily Mail, The Independent and The Times. Ann Cofffey MP, chair of the APPG committee, blogged about the inquiry on The Huffington Post.
We coordinated a letter to The Times, signed by chief executives of the charities supporting the inquiry and members of the committee.
Three other oral evidence sessions looked at children going missing from care were held over the previous two weeks. Please read stories from the previous sessions of this APPG:
- Young people in care tell parliamentary group: 'We need to be listened to'
- Gathering and sharing data on young people who run away from care
- MPs investigate why trafficked children go missing from care
Led by two parliamentary groups, the inquiry aims to develop a report that contains a practical set of recommendations to address the problem of children going missing from care. The report will be launched in June.