East Dunbartonshire Council refuses to answer questions on trafficked children ‘missing’ from their care

John Devlin 29/05/17. GLASGOW. Stock shot of Scottish Green Party MSP for West of Scotland, Ross Greer.
John Devlin 29/05/17. GLASGOW. Stock shot of Scottish Green Party MSP for West of Scotland, Ross Greer.

Green MSP Ross Greer has called on East Dunbartonshire Council to confirm the status of four children in its care, after the local authority refused to answer inquiries over a Freedom of Information (FOI) request which indicates they may have gone missing.

Leading Children’s Rights Organisation ECPAT (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking) recently released a report called “Still in Harm’s Way”. It was based on information councils gave to the charities under FOI law on the number of trafficked children and those who went missing from care in 2017.

Up to five of the 246 children who went missing were in Scotland.

ECPAT believe that as many as four of these could have been in East Dunbartonshire. The council would only disclose to them that “less than five” children ­had disappeared from their care in response to freedom of information requests.

City of Edinburgh Council confirmed the status of the one child in their care for whom concerns were raised.

Ross Greer, local Green MSP for the West of Scotland said: “As an East Dunbartonshire MSP, I’m really disturbed by what looks like an evasive answer by the council to serious questions about children potentially missing while in their care.

“I’ll be demanding answers on this immediately and if they do not give them, will ask Scottish Government ministers to intervene.

“We are all hoping that there is a reasonable explanation for this but until the council gives it, concern for these young people will only grow.

“It’s outrageous that some of the most vulnerable children in the country have gone missing while in the care of local councils.

“They have been through trauma the rest of us cannot imagine and it would be heartbreaking to think they have been failed by the state after being liberated from trafficking. Given this is happening across the UK,

“I hope that MPs will investigate it urgently. I raised support for human trafficking victims with the Scottish Government last week and will be following up this week with these new revelations.

“We should be proud that this report recommends the rest of the UK take inspiration from the approach in Scotland to caring for child victims of trafficking but that cannot distract from demands for clarity on the wellbeing of every single child in the care of our councils.”

The Herald contacted the council this morning (Tuesday, January 15) for a response.

This afternoon, Joint Leader of East Dunbartonshire Council, Andrew Polson replied: “We respond to FoI requests as fully as legislation and guidance allow. There are restrictions in place to protect the privacy of individuals and these were applied in this case. Anyone dissatisfied with the response they receive to an FoI has the right to ask for a review and ultimately to refer the matter to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

“We have said that if any child within our care is reported missing then an agreed set of procedures are followed, with Police Scotland involved at the earliest stage. We share information with partner agencies,and together with them, act in an open and transparent way.”