Child protection experts have declared they will take a new ‘proactive’ approach to combat the number of children and young people who go missing in Leeds.
The announcement comes as new figures show the number of incidents has rocketed by 65 per cent in the past year.
The report from the Leeds Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) revealed there were 1,845 incidents relating to 551 children from 2013 to 2014.
This is compared to 1,117 incidents involving 456 children from 2012 to 2013.
The YEP has previously reported on how missing children are at risk of falling into the clutches of child sex groomers, with experts linking the vulnerability of young people who go missing from home with the risk of children who are sexually exploited.
Jane Held, the independent chair of LSCB, defended the new figures, saying the rise is reflective of ‘improved collection and collation of data’, rather than an increase in the number of children missing.
She added: “Missing children is something we take very seriously and one we are increasing our attention on over the forthcoming year.
“We have developed a partnership strategy and action plan which is to be implemented within the next few months.”
In a bid to tackle the issue, the LSCB has announced it will be developing a ‘multi-agency response’.
This will also take into account new national guidance and practice developments.
Jane added: “Making sure that all children are safe from harm is our top priority, and all partners on the board work closely to ensure that any child missing from home or care is reported quickly to instigate their fast and safe return.
“The majority of children return home safely or are found quickly.”
She continued: “The reasons behind why children and young people are reported as missing are varied and complex.
“It may include the child or young person running away because of problems at home or school.
“Alternatively a child or young person may go missing because they want to be somewhere other than their home, or because they want to be with someone they are unable to be with.”
The figures, which were published in the LSCB’s annual report, take into account children up to the age of 18 years old who have been reported as missing to the police by their parents or carers.
It also includes missing youngsters who may not be from Leeds but could be visiting or staying in the area, as well as children who go missing on more than one occasion.