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Shock figures reveal victims as young as ten have fallen victim to sexual predators
Seven children ran away from four care homes for a total of 39 nights this year, leading to fears they could be at risk of sexual exploitation while missing.
Figures exclusively revealed to the Telegraph & Argus showed that from April to December 2011, five young people ran away for a total of 19 nights, an average of 2.1 nights a month.
That figure leapt up to a monthly average of 3.5 nights in 2012 when seven young people went missing for 39 nights.
The 2012 figures concerned just four care homes.
Councillor Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children’s services, said that it was a small number, but it needed to be reduced.
“We are extremely vigilant in Bradford and are working on this,” he said.
“These children are brought into care because they are in highly-damaging, violent, abusive and manipulative situations and are in a care home to try to protect and help them.
“We need to make sure we liaise with police and other agencies as well as can be.”
In September, there were 895 looked- after children in Bradford, which is 65 children per 10,000, slightly higher than the national average.
Kay Kelly, service manager for Barnardo’s Turnaround project which works with troubled children, said: “Children at risk of sexual exploitation are some of the most vulnerable in our society.
“We’re finding that victims that are being targeted are getting younger – the average age of children we work with has dropped from 15 to 13.
“Barnardo’s services have identified children as young as ten who have been subjected to sexual exploitation.
“Sadly, the girls and boys that are victims of sexual exploitation are often hidden from view and go unnoticed. They are groomed and then abused, leaving them traumatised and scarred for life.”
The service is currently supporting more than 100 children locally who have been sexually exploited or are at risk of sexual exploitation.
A police spokesman said: “We deal with missing person reports as and when we receive them, but they are dealt with on an individual basis, considering the particular circumstances of each.
“There are many differing motivating factors behind each, but when they do occur, we treat them very seriously.”
For more information, visit barnardos.org.uk or alternatively, contact Turnaround on (01274) 548379.