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A survey of 172 local authorities in England and Wales, conducted by the Care Leavers' Association, has revealed that there are currently almost 400 young people who have gone missing from care without a trace.
The survey, undertaken using the Freedom of Information Act, revealed that whilst some local authorities can account for all of the young people in their care, 41 local authorities have children and young people who are missing, with no knowledge of their whereabouts. One local authority reported losing 110 young people since the year 2000. A further 6 local authorities could not respond to the survey because they keep no record of children who have gone missing from their care.
The figures reveal that there is a particular problem in the South East of England, where the reported figures tend to be higher. From the information provided, a high number of those children and young people who are missing seem to be unaccompanied asylum seekers.
West Sussex County Council, which includes Gatwick airport in its area, reported 110 young people missing.
Hillingdon Council, in which Heathrow airport is located, reported 45 missing since 2000. It said the majority of these were people who went missing within a week of arriving in the country.
The survey shows great disparity between the local authorities' methods of recording the number of missing children and young people from their care. Whilst most local authorities provided the researchers with information, others refused to answer because they believed the individuals could potentially be indentified, they did not hold the information in a central register, or they were unable to provide the figures 'due to cost'.
Victoria Hull, a national development worker at the Care Leavers' Association, said it is worrying that hundreds of the UK's most vulnerable young people seemed to be disappearing into thin air.
"That some local authorities could not answer our questions because they did not keep track of the data is shocking. If those local authorities can not even keep track of where their vulnerable young people are, how can they be relied upon to ensure their safety?"
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