Hundreds run away from Wigan

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MORE than 200 young people in Wigan ran away from home in the past two years, new police figures show.

Data released under the Freedom of Information Act reveals a total of 223 children under the age of 16 were reported missing from January 1, 2012, to November 1, 2013.

However, the Greater Manchester Police figures also show every one of the cases of children going missing ended with the young person being reunited with their parents or guardians, and there are currently no dormant cases on GMP’s files

The force also pointed out the figures only represent the last time the child was reported missing, and could include the same youngster going missing on numerous occasions.

Det Supt Jill Clarke from GMP’s public protection division, said: “The people affected are some of the most vulnerable in our community and officers in our missing person safeguarding teams work alongside partner agencies such as social services, the youth offending team and schools.

“This assists all involved to better understand the full picture in relation to the missing person, so we can better safeguard them and develop opportunities to find them.

“On each occasion somebody is reported as missing to Greater Manchester Police they are created on our electronic missing from home system. Each missing episode will result in a new record being created.”

However, leading charity Railway Children said there were still concerns over the number of young people choosing to abandon their family or guardians, warning the difficult economic conditions and numbers of people living in poverty made running away more likely.

The charity also said the recorded figures could be the tip of the iceberg and said it was vital organisations worked together to prevent vulnerable children and teenagers slipping through the net and ending up on the streets.

Head of UK policy and public affairs Andy McCullough said: “We welcome any indication that the number of missing children is falling, but we estimate only one-third of the 100,000 who run away in Britain every year are actually reported missing and just five per cent try to get help.

“Understanding what’s happening off the radar requires a level of data few local authorities have access to. These blind spots have to be addressed before specific local needs can be accurately matched with the right support.

“Children’s services across Greater Manchester are struggling against a toxic combination of austerity and rising demand. They are already under immense pressure trying to support the region’s estimated 150,000 children living in poverty.

“Now more than ever, it is vital organisations based in Wigan and Greater Manchester work together to protect children with nowhere else to go.”

The charity said children running away were at risk of falling into sexual exploitation and drug or alcohol addiction.