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The foster children running away from home in Cornwall

The foster children running away from home in Cornwall

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 7:00am 1st December 2019.

It has been revealed that foster children in Cornwall went missing 85 times last year alone.

New figures show some are not receiving safeguarding interviews to assess whether they have fallen prey to exploitation.

The Local Government Association says growing pressures on councils mean it is becoming "increasingly difficult" to make sure vulnerable children are given the support they need.

Councils are legally required to offer a return home interview to children who go missing from foster care once they are back, in which they can discuss the reasons why they ran away.

They are intended to identify problems in their foster placement, and to assess whether they have been exposed to risks such as sexual exploitation while missing.

New figures from Ofsted show foster children in Cornwall went missing on 85 occasions during 2018-19.

But only 45 return home interviews were carried out during this time – a rate of around 53%.

The figures have been rounded to the nearest five.

Pirate FM has asked Cornwall Council for a statement.

"Return home interviews are really important as they show the child that professionals care.

"They are also a key opportunity for children’s services to understand if the child is at risk, if they are being groomed to go missing, or if they are not happy in their care placement so the right support can then be organised for them."

Iryna Pona, policy manager at charity the Children's Society

teenager

While some children may refuse to be interviewed, Ms Pona said failure to act on concerns raised in an initial interview could influence a child's decision to have one the next time they go missing.

A parliamentary report on young runaways published earlier this year highlighted children in care's vulnerability to being groomed for sexual and criminal exploitation - a risk that is heightened when they go missing.

It followed a 2016 enquiry which found local authorities were failing to conduct return home interviews properly, share information about risks to children, or develop plans to safeguard them.

Across England, almost 6,400 foster children went missing a total of 27,000 times over the course of 2018-19.

Judith Blake, chair of the LGA's children and young people board, said return home interviews were "imperative" to get children the help they need.

"Faced with growing pressures, it is becoming increasingly difficult for councils to offer all children the support they deserve.

"High vacancy and turnover rates are also putting pressure on social workers, who are having to manage increasingly high caseloads.

"Councils want to work with the new government to improve retention and to encourage more professionals to work in children’s social care, while investing properly in the services vulnerable children and young people need."

Judith Blake, chair of the LGA's children and young people board

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