Troubled Families Programme

Oral Answers to Questions — Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 11th March 2013.

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Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey Labour, Stockport 2:30 pm, 11th March 2013

What recent representations he has received on the sharing of data on missing children in the Troubled Families programme.

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

My Department plays a vital role in the cross-Government programme to turn around the lives of our most troubled families, a matter on which the hon. Lady has a long track record. Although I have not received any representations on sharing data on missing children, as we do not deal with them particularly, we are committed to building a clearer picture across Government of how many children are missing from care and where they go. We will begin piloting new arrangements shortly.

Photo of Ann Coffey Ann Coffey Labour, Stockport

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. As he will be aware, children going missing is a key indicator of being at risk of child sexual exploitation, and he will also know that information on children going missing from troubled families is under-reported. Will he ensure, together with his colleagues in other Departments, that data on missing and absent children is collected and shared properly, so that children from troubled families at risk of coming to harm can be identified, helped as early as possible, and not end up in the care system?

Photo of Iain Duncan Smith Iain Duncan Smith The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

Yes. I congratulate the hon. Lady on focusing on this across all the Departments, as I am aware that she has asked this question to a number of Departments. She is absolutely right. We do need to co-ordinate much better between Departments. As she knows, this is an historical issue for different Governments. The Department for Education chairs the data working group, which includes the Home Office, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and the Children’s Society. I understand that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is also involved. That should help to improve the collection and publication of data. The pilot will begin shortly to see that we sort this out. She is right that we must do more to improve data as part of the missing children strategy and make sure that we get it right.