South East Wales

Gwent missing children project launched

Action to co-ordinate efforts to trace young people who have gone missing or have run away from home is being boosted by a new trial project.

Gwent Police are joining forces with agencies including social workers and health staff as the scheme is unveiled.

Officers say they get around 300 reports of missing children every month who they fear are at risk of harm.

Deputy chief constable Jeff Farrar said he hoped the initiative would be extended across Wales.

The launch on Monday is the first official engagement of new local government minister Lesley Griffiths, who was moved from her job as health minister in last Thursday's cabinet reshuffle.

Gwent Police said children who go missing can be at risk of harm from threats such as physical and sexual violence, substance misuse and involvement in criminal activity.

Mr Farrar, the lead figure on human trafficking with the senior police officers' organisation Acpo Cymru, said: "They are invariably looked-after children either in foster care or care homes.

"They are people who are particularly vulnerable and we need to give them that multi-agency support.

"This is not just an issue for the police, this is about the local authorities, it's about health, it's about the third sector coming together and recognising that when somebody goes missing in those circumstances they are incredibly vulnerable."

Joyce Watson, chair of the Welsh assembly's human trafficking group, told BBC Sunday Politics Wales she feared some children could be preyed upon by gangs of abusers.

The programme said that Wales' 22 local authorities showed inconsistencies in how they recorded and reported cases of children who go missing.

More than a quarter of councils reported having no central record of missing children. A further five councils had figures only for children missing for more than 24 hours.

The Welsh government issued guidance in 2011 which states that the disappearance of young people from care should be reported if they are absent for more than six hours or after midnight.

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