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The number of children in London reported missing from home has leapt by more than one third over a four year period.

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Metropolitan Police figures show the total number of under-16s who disappeared in 2011 stood at 17,882, up from the 13,361 reported in 2008. But it was down from a peak of more than 20,000 in 2010.

Nineteen of those missing person cases are still outstanding.

The figures were obtained by the charity Railway Children, which expects them to rise again by the end of this year.

The organisation supports vulnerable homeless children at risk from abuse and explotation.

Head of strategy and policy Andy McCullough said: “It is alarming to see that the numbers of children reported missing in London has risen so significantly year on year.

“Of those who are reported missing, the majority are young people who have run away from home or care. Children run away for many reasons, usually to escape things they find stressful such as problems at school or home.

“However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Anecdotal research indicates that as many as two thirds of young people who run away from home are not even reported missing and may be too vulnerable and afraid to seek help from official services.”

The charity has set up a dedicated page on the Mumsnet website for parents grappling with the issue. For every interaction, its corporate partner Aviva will donate £2 to the charity.

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