|Kent's missing children spark fears of exploitation|
|Written by Kent Online|
|Thursday, 26 July 2012|
Concerns have been raised about the number of vulnerable children going missing in Kent - with a warning they are at risk of being exploited.
The annual report by the independent Kent Safeguarding Children Board says there has been a small increase in children at risk running away, with 17 recorded as missing and not returning in 2011-12.
The board’s annual report states: “This is a serious concern as these children are especially vulnerable to exploitation.”
The board is responsible for ensuring different agencies are working together effectively to protect children at risk.
In its report, it says tackling the number of missing children must be a priority and the issue of trafficked children is particularly challenging because of the number of child asylum seekers entering through ports like Dover.
It adds that Kent is also under pressure from the well-documented numbers of vulnerable children placed in the county by other social services authorities.
Social services chiefs say they are stepping up their efforts to minimise the numbers who go missing but say those that do run away often do so because they have been ordered to by traffickers.
Cllr Jenny Whittle (Con) cabinet member for specialist children's services, said: “The best way of reducing the number going missing is stronger partnership working.
"The challenge is that [children] come over here knowing there is a bounty on their head and that if they don’t do as they're instructed, something may happen to their family back home.
"We have to do a lot more to raise awareness - every child that does go missing is a huge worry.”
What do you think? Join the debate by adding your comments belowKCC now has weekly reports on missing children which are discussed by senior social workers.
The board’s chairman Maggie Blyth said Kent had improved significantly since a highly critical Ofsted inspection in 2010 but there remained “considerable challenges ahead.”
KCC has become one of the first authorities to sign up to The Children’s Society’s ‘Runaways Charter’, committing itself to putting a safety net in place to protect young runaways from harm and exploitation.