Wirral sees sharp rise in number of missing children from care

Town Hall, Brighton Street, Wallasey Image copyright Stephen Richards/Geograph
Image caption Wirral Council said it gives "intensive" support to young people

One hundred children went missing from care in Wirral last year - more than double the number in 2015, the BBC has discovered.

Many of the 570 incidents were due to 65 youngsters going missing at least twice, according to data released under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.

Wirral's director of children's services Julia Hassall said "intensive" support is given to children in care.

Across Liverpool City Region there are nearly 4,000 in care - up 600 on 2011.

Ms Hassall said: "Of the 65 young people who were recorded as 'missing from their placement more than once' last year, the vast majority of the incidents were of a short duration, frequently being as simple as a child returning back to a placement later than agreed or staying out late with friends without prior permission."

But she acknowledged that every incident was "a cause for concern".

She added: "Whenever an incident such as this occurs we provide intensive support to the young person and their families and carers."

'Crumbling system'

Across Liverpool City Region, the picture is mixed.

While there was a rise in the number of incidents of children going missing in Liverpool, Knowsley and Sefton, there was a fall in Halton, Cheshire.

St Helens Council did not respond to BBC Radio Merseyside's FOI request.

Children's services at two Merseyside councils - Wirral and Knowsley - have received "inadequate" ratings by the regulator Ofsted since December 2015.

Michael Lavalette, head of Liverpool Hope University's social work department, said: "Frankly the system is crumbling to the point of breakdown."

He blamed "year-on-year" budget cuts, which he said meant less support for children and families in need.

Prof Lavalette said the growth in "outsourcing and privatisation" of services means there is less support for youngsters when they are taken into care.

This in turn leads to "placement breakdown or young people removing themselves from the placement site", he said.

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