The number of children going missing from foster care has rocketed by 19% over the last year according to latest fostering figures published by Ofsted. There were 5,055 children recorded as missing between April 2014 and March 2015, compared with 4,245 in the previous year.
The figures show that children placed through independent fostering agencies were more likely to be reported as missing than those in council-run placements. Ofsted found that 55% of children reported as missing were placed with an independent agency.
Ofsted says the rise is “likely to reflect improved reporting around missing children” with the number of missing incident reports from council fostering services increasing by 40% between 2013/14 and 2014/15, much higher than the 28% increase between 2012/13 and 2013/14.
Children were also going missing for longer periods during 2014/15 than previous years, particularly those placed through council fostering services. In 2014/15, 68 per cent of children who were missing for more than 28 days were in council placements, compared with 60 per cent in 2013/14.
Despite the figures suggesting an improvement in reporting of missing incidents, Ofsted flags up a concern that too many services are still failing to understand why children go missing.
This week, the all-party parliamentary group on missing children and adults launched an inquiry into how children’s services, schools and police can better support children deemed to be absent from home, care or education. This follows the introduction in 2012 of a two-tier police reporting system that categorises when a child runs away whether they are “absent” or “missing”.