§ Tim Loughton
To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the answer given to the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham on 13 January 2003,Official Report, column 499W, on looked after children, how many of the 920 children who went missing from their usual place of residence are still missing; and what action has he taken to (a) reduce the numbers of runaways and (b) trace those runaways who have still not returned to local authority care. 
§ Jacqui Smith
Of the 920 children who went missing from their usual place of residence at any time during the year 2000–01, 190 were absent from their agreed placement on 31 March 2001. Data on children missing from care during the year ending 31 March 2002 will be available at the end of March 2003.
The Department issued guidance on 28 November 2002, "Children Missing from Care and Home—a guide to good practice", alongside the Social Exclusion Unit's report. "Young Runaways", which makes recommendations on:
- prevention of running away
- ensuring the safety of those that run away
- ensuring that there is appropriate help on return
- co-ordinating responsibilities at local and national level
This guidance requires that where young people are missing from care, local authorities must demonstrate commitment to their safety and welfare and act to ensure that they are found as soon as possible:
reports about patterns of absence must be available to senior managers and to the National Care Standards Commission.
- each children's home and foster carer should have written procedures that must be followed where a child is missing
- service managers must monitor patterns of absence from individual children's homes
- and foster carers