Hundreds of young people in Redbridge children’s homes are from other local authorities, report reveals
- Credit: Archant
Redbridge children’s homes claimed they sometimes gave up trying to report missing youngsters due to difficulties reaching police.
Around 50 children went missing from care in the borough in 2018/19, according to a Redbridge Children's Safeguarding Board (RCSB) report presented to the people scrutiny committee on February 4.
While many went missing trying to return to family or friends, 34 were "being exposed to gangs and groomed for sexual or criminal exploitation".
However, children's homes and care providers experienced such "long delays" getting through to 101 that it led "on some occasions" to them giving up trying to report, meaning the real figure could be higher.
The Metropolitan Police have introduced a new way to report missing people online, which may make it easier for providers to inform police.
Information from the Missing Children's Team shows at least 11 of the Redbridge residents missing from care "have been involved in county lines activities".
Councillor Elaine Norman, cabinet member for children and young people, said: "The number of children missing in Redbridge has continued to fall, assisted by a change in police arrangements in 2018 which makes reporting missing persons easier.
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"The introduction of online reporting to police now allows care providers to quickly report young people missing from their care.
"Ofsted also reports missing children as part of its safeguarding duties when inspecting care homes. Overall, the number of children missing from home in Redbridge has declined from 182 in 2018 to 163."
The council also said there is a missing child exploitation panel, which ensures that agencies and commissioned services work effectively to respond to reports and reduce the risks faced by those who go missing.
However, more than two thirds of the young people cared for in the borough that year were placed there by another local authority, sometimes in "unregulated semi-independent settings".
In 2018-19, more than 500 young people cared for in Redbridge were from other areas, compared to less than 250 under the care of Redbridge Council.
The local authorities who place children in Redbridge retain responsibility for them, the council said.
Young people from outside the borough went missing from care almost 2,000 times, creating additional work for police.
"There are no council-run children's homes in Redbridge but there are eight private homes where some of our young people are placed," Cllr Norman said.
"We have 222 looked after children and we are responsible for them even if they are placed outside the borough.
"As with all local authorities, we are required to notify the authority where we have placed a looked after child."