Fewer children are going missing in Swindon.

August 2019 saw the lowest ever number of missing children in the borough reported to the police at 32.

That’s close to half the number reported three years earlier at 57.

Swindon Borough Council's children’s health, education and care overview and scrutiny committee was told that was down to improved work by multiple teams.

Missing children and exploitation manager Jeannette Chipping said: “There’s been a really positive response from everybody on missing children.

“Whenever there’s been a ‘missing incident’ we have a return to home interview with the child – that can be done by social workers or at school by teachers.

“Schools are notified for every missing child now, in case they’re avoiding home but still going to school, or children are overheard talking about them

“That’s had an effect on the numbers of children who go missing, especially those who repeatedly go missing. I’m convinced it’s better plans which have contributed to this reduction.”

Councillor Bob Wright raised the issue of teenagers who don’t tell their parents where they are.

He said: “Sometimes they say they’re staying with at this or that friend’s house, but in fact they’re not anywhere near Swindon.”

Ms Chipping said: “We can only rely on parents to give us the information we need.”

Detective superintendent Deb Smith of Wiltshire Police told members that the risk to children had changed with the growth of social media, and the understanding of exploitation of youngster had increased.

She said: “When we were all children we were safe at home, unless the household was unstable. Now a child up in their bedroom is probably on an iPad or computer and much more vulnerable.

“When it comes to exploitation for older children, the risk increases from outside the home, rather than coming from family members, it comes from others.”

Det Supt Smith said criminals kept an eye out for those they could exploit.

She added: “They go to a train station or bus station in larger towns like Swindon, if there’s a child who isn’t in school or they see someone who looks vulnerable, they try and form a relationship. They buy them an iPhone or expensive trainers or a handbag. Then they ask them to do a simple drug run and they then have them in their grip.”

The officer said more than 60 people had been arrested recently in Swindon and Wiltshire in targeted operations.

Committee chairman Barbara Parry said: “It’s very encouraging to see the co-operation between the council, the health services and the police. Each brings its skill sets to the problem and it increases the ability overall. This can only help to protect more children.”