Teen was 'exploited by trafficking gang' after going missing from council care

Redcar and Cleveland Council\'s headquarters in Redcar and, inset, director of children and families Kathryn Boulton
Redcar and Cleveland Council\'s headquarters in Redcar and, inset, director of children and families Kathryn Boulton Credit: LDRS

A teenager in the care of a local council told staff he was trafficked by a gang and forced to work.

The boy had gone missing from Redcar and Cleveland Council’s care, but was located by police and is now described as doing well in his studies at a local college.

A recent report for councillors said: “[The] young person disclosed he had been exploited by a trafficking gang and forced to work.

“He has now settled well and is in college, and has told his social worker he feels safe.”

In September last year the council was monitoring 23 children described as being in the vulnerable, missing, exploited or trafficked category, nine of which were directly in its care, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The report also said the council was dealing with more episodes of children going missing, frequently from foster placements or from residential homes.

Over the 12 months to September, this figure rose from 65 to 186 - an increase of 186%.

The report author suggested one reason for this was an increasing number of teenagers the local authority is being required to look after.

Demands on the council include a continuing number of unaccompanied children arriving at Teesport and seeking asylum, who the council has a duty to care for until their status can be established.

The council has a higher than average proportion of unaccompanied children in its care compared to many local councils nationally.

A separate council report providing an overview of safeguarding activity carried out by the council’s children and families department said that a specialist team had now been set up to assist such young people.

It said: “The young people have often experienced significant trauma, great hardship and frightening situations to get to England and they do not speak English. 

“The team works hard to support the young people into education, to access support and to include them in a variety of activities. 

“Two young people have been supported to access football clubs and have been observed by a scout for local clubs.”

Overall, there were 341 children in the council’s care at the end of 2021/22, a rise of more than 7% on the previous 12 months.

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