THOUSANDS of children are going missing from the care of local authorities in Yorkshire each year, with many lost for weeks or months at a time.
South Yorkshire alone reported nearly 1,000 children missing from foster care and residential homes in 2011, according to police data.
Officers have warned that local authority records of missing children are “hugely inaccurate” and that councils are failing to get to grips with the full extent of the problem.
Children missing from care risk becoming involved in drugs or crime and are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Many run away – often repeatedly – to see friends or family members who have been deemed unsafe by local authorities.
Police estimate an average of £1,000 is spent tracking down each child, totalling millions every year.
Yet Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Yorkshire Post to each council in the region revealed that many fail to keep accurate missing children records.
Two councils admitted they did not keep complete records, while some recorded missing episodes, rather than children. According to the figures, 454 children went missing in 2011 and 383 disappeared in 2010.
Police said they had 978 reports of children going missing from South Yorkshire alone in 2011.