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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Concern over missing Cumbria children figures

MORE than 300 children are reported missing every year in Cumbria.

Figures have revealed boys and girls are running away from home at the rate of almost one a day. Police say reports are always treated seriously and stress most children turn up safe within 48 hours.

The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show 308 children aged under 16 were reported missing last year. The year before there were 329 and in 2010 there were 384.

Detective Sergeant Peter Goulston said work was carried out to highlight those at risk of going missing and efforts were made involving other public agencies to stop them disappearing again.

He said: “Children will always be treated as a priority. They would always be categorised as high risk.

“They are usually found quickly. It would be fairly exceptional for them to be missing for more than 48 hours.”

The responsibility among police to find the child lies at first with uniformed patrols. But if there is a suspicion the child is a victim of crime or abuse the case would be quickly referred to detectives in CID.

Cases are reviewed regularly and force systems will automatically flag up if they have gone missing before.

DS Goulston added: “If they are going missing frequently there will be some underlying issues – and because children who are in care very usually come from a fairly traumatic background they tend to be children that will feature in missing persons inquiries.

“But they are not exclusively children from care. It could be a child who has some issue at home and has chosen to run off rather than address it.

“Just because they go missing they are not bad children. It’s often part of a bigger picture.”

The NSPCC said common reasons for running away included abuse, because children were unhappy in their care placement or because of bereavement and drug or alcohol problems.

A spokeswoman for the charity said: “Young people are most likely to run away between the ages of 13 and 15 and girls run away more often than boys. The majority of children who run away from home are found safe and well and are returned to their parents.

“However, running away can put some children at great risk of physical harm or sexual exploitation.”

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