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Teen reported missing from Sussex children's home 173 times
2:20pm Monday 10th September 2012 in News
A teenage child has gone missing from a children’s home on 173 occasions in three years.
The unnamed child has the highest number of missing reports from a council-owned care home in the county.
The child went missing from West Sussex County Council ’s six bed children’s home in Shoreham between 2009 and 2012 at an average of more than once a week.
New figures obtained by the Argus also reveal that a teenage child went missing from a children’s home for more than eight days.
In total 29 children aged between 12 and 16 years old, based at West Sussex County Council’s two homes in Shoreham and Crawley, went missing in the last three financial years.
On 12 occasions, children were missing between three days and a week and on three occasions for more than a week.
By contrast the longest any child went missing from an East Sussex County Council home was a thirteen-year-old who was missing for 24 hours.
In total ten children were reported missing from the council’s homes in 2010/11 and 2011/12 and all were returned safely to their homes by police.
West Sussex County Councillor Bob Smytherman said it was time for a change in how missing children were reported to ensure that resources were released quicker in cases of genuine missing children and not wasted in other incidents.
He said: “At present, even if the children’s home owner knows where that child is, if they are late back after curfew they have to report them as missing.
“They might be with their extended family or playing Xbox with friends but if they break their curfew they are reported missing.
"When a child is genuinely missing and no-one knows where they are, that’s when people should step into action with all available tools quicker.”
A West Sussex County Council spokeswoman said the council’s two children’s homes had been judged as ‘outstanding’ and ‘good’ in Ofsted inspections.
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said the authority was reviewing their management information systems for missing children following high-profile cases of missing children being forced into the trade sex trade.
He added: “We take the protection of children and young people in our care very seriously, and Ofsted says our services for looking after children in care are good.”