More than 180 Walsall children went missing in less than one year, a shocking new report has revealed.

Figures to be presented to Walsall Council's overview and scrutiny committee on Monday (March 11) show that a total of 186 children were reported missing from home, in care or education between April last year to date.

Walsall Council has set up a new task force to address the issue and reduce the risk of missing young people from being exploited.

The report by Sue Whitmore, principal exploitation reduction officer, reveals that between April and June last year 87 children went missing.

Another 71 reports were received between July and September while there have been 28 missing young people since November.

Bullying trauma
Bullying trauma
 

West Midlands Police estimates that between January 2017 and December 2018, 1,437 adults and children from Walsall went missing.

The force also estimates that an average of 60 people from the town go missing each month - or two per day.

The authority has now set up an in-house team dedicated to responding to missing episodes, deliver 'return home interviews' and provide support to help children.

Bosses say this will help them understand the different reasons why children go missing and help prevent them doing so again.

The report said: "The most frequent reason given by young people who have gone missing is ‘problems at home’.

Walsall Council, The Civic Centre.
Walsall Council, The Civic Centre.
 

"Children in care are particularly at risk of going missing and three times more likely to run away.

"Twenty-five per cent of missing children and young people reported mental health problems, with five per cent citing mental health problems as the reason for running away.

"Young people with drugs and alcohol problems are at least four times as likely to run away as those without.

"Children in care report that they go missing for different reasons. These include being unhappy, missing family or not being able to participate in specific activities.

"Some children also ‘run for fun’; staff may know where they are and they come back.

"Other children are running away from something intolerable; this could be bullying or abuse, a feeling that they are in the wrong place or not feeling ‘listened to’. Some children are running ‘back’ to where they want to be with family or friends."

It added: "The new team in Walsall will bring significant opportunities to us being able to robustly tackle missing children within the Borough; it will also support the early identification of risks that are associated with going missing for example trafficking, sexual and criminal exploitation.

"In doing so we hope that by providing early help and intervention to missing children it will reduce the number of children who may become exploited.

"It will enable us to understand any risk the child may have been exposed to and work closely with partners within the police and education to tackle any harm a child may have come to."