Figures show an alarming number of vulnerable young people continue to go missing or absent from their looked after and leaving care placements and as such could be placing themselves at risk of abuse or harm.

Missing from care 

A looked after child who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be (for example school) and their whereabouts is not known.

Absent without authority

A looked after child whose whereabouts is known but who is not at their placement or place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the police.

A Statistical First Release (SFR) of data from the government provides information about looked after children in England for the year ending 31 March 2017, including their placement type, their legal status, the numbers starting and ceasing to be looked after, and the numbers who go missing or are away from their placement without authorisation.

10,700 looked after children had a missing incident.

In the year ending 31 March 2017 there were 10,700 children looked after who had a missing incident, which equates to 10% of the 102,590 children looked after children during the year.

6,660 children went missing more than once. 

There were 60,720 missing incidents, which is an average of 5.7 missing incidents per child who went missing. 6,660 children went missing more than once and 330 were missing at the 31 March 2017.

Most missing incidents were short. 54,230 missing incidents (89%) lasted 2 days or less and 490 lasted more than 30 days. However we need to be cautious interpreting these figures as the duration of missing incidents is collected in days so a child who went missing for a short period late one evening, but was found early the next morning would be counted as being missing for 1 day even if they were only missing for a few hours.

50% of missing incidents were by children placed in secure units, children’s homes or semi-independent living accommodation, 33% were by children in foster placements and 14% were by children living independently.

4,860 looked after children were away from their placement without authorisation during the year. There were 20,330 incidents, an average of 4.2 per child.

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