A host of prominent Welsh politicians, policy makers and police commissioners came together today at a special event organised by NYAS Cymru to discuss progress towards protecting missing children.

Over 10,000 children are reported to the police as missing in Wales every year – approximately one child every hour – and almost half (43%) of missing children incidents in Wales relate to children in care. Since July 2019, NYAS Cymru has been leading a collaborative steering group across Wales to improve support for missing and exploited children.

Opening the event, Children’s Commissioner Sally Holland discussed the development of our children’s rights approach to policing, along with a protocol to reduce the unnecessary criminalisation of care-experienced young people.

Statistics show that children and young people in care who go missing are disproportionately at risk of harm or danger, including sexual exploitation or grooming for criminal activity such as drug running on so-called ‘county lines’.  They are also at an increased risk of being arrested or imprisoned, or being caught up in serious violence.

The event included strong calls to strengthen guidance for independent return interviews in Wales, in order to seize more opportunities to protect children and make sure they are being listened to.

Sharon Lovell MBE, Chief Executive of NYAS Cymru, said “Our event has demonstrated the huge commitment from organisations across Wales to work together to improve the lives and outcomes for care-experienced young people who are at risk of criminalisation and exploitation.

“While we celebrate the power of our achievements over the last two years through collaboration with the Missing the Point National Steering Group, there remains more to be done. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in shaping this event, especially, Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Tom Davies, The Children’s Society, Karen Benjamin, 4Cs, Gemma Woolfe, South Wales Violence Prevention Unit, Dr. Sam Clutton and Albert Heaney, Welsh Government.

“Together, we will reduce the criminalisation and exploitation of care experienced young people. NYAS Cymru will always be on the side of every child/young person.”