Concerns children going missing from home over exploitation and drug dealing raised in Birmingham

Many more children have gone missing from home over the past year, it has been revealed – with concerns that the increase is due to exploitation and drug dealing.

Birmingham Council House.
Birmingham Council House.

Papers due to go before Birmingham City Council’s Education and Children’s Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee this week detail how there has been a ‘significant rise’ in the number of children missing from home over the last three years, with children ‘going missing due to county lines in particular’.

County Lines is where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries, usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs.

In the past it has always been the case that more children have gone missing from care than from home, with the dynamic shifting slightly over the past three years.

And, despite some dips in rates due to various lockdowns, the council says it is concerned at the rising levels over the past few years.

“Four years ago there were more children missing from care, but over the last three years we have seen a significant change to there being more children missing from home,” papers from next week’s meeting note.

“This is likely to be due to exploitation – children going missing due to county lines in particular.

“Since the pandemic we have seen dips in the missing episodes and missing children at key lockdown points – April 2020 and January 2021. This is explained by the restrictions themselves, but also is a reflection of parents/carers being uncomfortable with reporting children as missing because of the lock down.

“Missing episodes have been climbing since the beginning of 2021 and are now similar to prepandemic missing rates.

“The missing episode rates for children at home have increased by 25 per cent over the period July 2020 to March 2021. This reflects specific children going

missing more often and we believe this is related to exploitation and changes in drug dealing. The local missing episodes are therefore more regular but young people tend to be missing for shorter periods.

"The service is piloting some work with an identified group of parents whose children are involved in county lines and are often missing from home together.

"This will look at increasing knowledge and awareness around county lines and actions to take when their children go missing together, with parents acting as safeguarding partners, and the importance of accepting return home interviews (RHIs) because of the information that can be gained and support that can be offered.”

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