[Image: PA.]

This Writer is appalled that Powys County Council – my own local authority – has refused to confess the number of vulnerable children who have gone missing while in the care of its social services department.

Perhaps “care” is too grand a description for whatever these kids experienced. After all, if an authority is too ashamed to give numbers of those it has lost, what else has been happening to them?

It isn’t even as though the council has no mechanism for recording instances of children in care going missing – the All-Wales Protocol on Missing Children states that “each agency should have its own guidance and recording systems in respect of children going missing”.

I remember Joyce Watson AM telling Brecon and Radnorshire Constituency Labour Party that children in care were in danger of going missing, several years ago. She said that Powys had a terrible record of failing to provide information then, and it is an indictment against that authority and everybody working for it that the situation should not have changed, even after rules were imposed by the Welsh Government.

Still, Powys isn’t alone. Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot and Monmouthshire also refused to provide information when the Western Mail requested it, and Anglesey said the data was “not kept” – an admission that should put that authority in very hot water (and I don’t mean the Menai Strait and the Irish Sea).

Other councils also provided excuses, meaning only 13 were able to give accurate information – and this was damning enough.

It showed that 115 children were reported missing on 1,695 occasions between January 2015 and May 2017. Clearly, this means some children disappeared more than once. Some were gone for weeks at a time. And a baby boy, less than a year old, was among those reported missing.

Let’s be honest – it seems likely that Catriona Williams of Children in Wales is right:

These children are being targeted by paedophiles and drug dealers. But weren’t they put in care to prevent them from coming to harm?

Just what in blazes are these councils doing? Councillors legally have a parental duty to these youngsters – would they allow their own children to be treated in this way?

And what, exactly, will be done about it?

I think we all know the answer to that. It’s the same thing that was done after Joyce Watson revealed the numbers of children going missing to me and my colleagues in Brecon and Radnorshire, all those years ago: Nothing.

To all those who consider that judgement to be too harsh – especially those working for Welsh social services departments, and most particularly those in Powys, I have just one thing to say:

Prove me wrong.


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