ONE in ten children went missing from care last year, with most of them vanishing from their placements repeatedly.

Just weeks after the Echo revealed failures at ten per cent of the region’s children’s homes, new figures show that more than 700 youngsters under the care of North-East authorities were recorded as missing in 2018/19.

Data released in December suggests at least two thirds of those children and teenagers went missing more than once.

Stark statistics show there were 4,500 missing incidents recorded in 2018/19, with Middlesbrough having the North-East’s highest average number of such incidents – ten for every child reported as missing.

Experts believe that children and young people who go missing are at “significant risk of harm” and vulnerable to sexual and criminal exploitation.

Nationally, there were more than 73,000 incidents of looked after young people going missing last year, with 430 children disappearing for more than 30 days. Most cases were resolved in less than 48 hours.

Hundreds of youngsters were under nine when they went missing, though the majority were over 16 and 46 per cent aged between ten and 15.

Half disappeared while accommodated in secure units, children’s homes or semi-independent living facilities, with more than a quarter reported missing from foster placements.

In addition to the children officially recorded as missing, another 3,650 nationwide were "away from placement without authorisation" last year.

Research by the charity Missing People suggests strong links between children who go missing repeatedly and exploitation, with those who disappear frequently at “particular risk” of being harmed or living through risky experiences.

The charity’s 2019 report A Safer Return said missing children were also more likely to resort to “unsafe strategies” such as sleeping rough, stealing or begging to survive.

The report added said: “…as well as being at heightened risk of going missing, looked after children are also particularly likely to be harmed while away. They are more likely to have experienced abuse, neglect or trauma in the past, so when missing they are at a heightened risk of exploitation or of physical or sexual abuse.”

Looked after children are also more likely to be targeted for sexual exploitation, with criminals said to target children’s homes “specifically because of the high vulnerability of the children in them”.