One in Three Trafficked Children Go Missing From Local Authority Care

Our new study with the charity ECPAT UK has revealed that trafficked and unacompanied children in local authority care are at very high risk of going missing. Shocking statistics include that 1 in 3 trafficked children went missing from local authority care in 2020.

Read the Full Report

Key Findings

Trafficked Children

  • Local authorities identified over 1,200 looked-after-children as victims of trafficking in 2020 – a 22% rise since 2018
  • 1 in 3 trafficked children in local authority care went missing in 2020
  • This is an increase of 25% from 2018 to 2020.
  • On average, each of those children went missing 8 times per year

Trafficked children in care continue to be one of the groups who are most at risk of going missing in the UK. Their missing rate is significantly higher than those in care that are not identified as victims of trafficiking. This is highlighted in 2020, when trafficked children went missing from care 8 times on average, compared to non-trafficked children who went missing from care 6.5 times.

Unaccompanied Children

  • Local authorities identified 5,263 looked-after-children as unaccompanied in 2020 – an almost 10% rise since 2018
  • 13% of unaccompanied children in local authority care went missing in 2020
  • This was a slight decrease from 14% in 2018.
  • On average, each of those children went missing 2.5 times per year

Unaccompanied children remain at very high risk of going missing, despite the fact that, overall, the proportion of unaccompanied children going missing has decreased. Unaccompanied children remain at higher risk of going missing than the general looked after children population, which sits at 10%.

Covid Impact on Missing

2020 was an exceptional year. The Covid-19 public health measures (including lockdowns) implemented in the UK during 2020 led to a general decrease in the number of children reported missing. This makes the number of missing episodes for both of these groups of children in 2020 all the more concerning.

Jane Hunter, Senior Research and Impact Manager at Missing People, said:

“This data once again confirms that unaccompanied and trafficked children are at very high risk of going missing from care; somewhere they should be able to be kept safe. Many of these children will have experienced harm, fear and exploitation both before going missing and while missing. What’s more, this data shows no improvement over recent years, with both a higher number and proportion of trafficked children going missing in 2020 than in previous years, and a broadly similar proportion of unaccompanied children going missing. It is very clear that more needs to be done to safeguard these children.”

Read the Full Report

For full information, find the full report below.

Read the Full Report

For further information, find out more about how exploited children in local authority care are also going missing at an alarmingly high rate, below.

Find Out More