Essex children 'at risk of trafficking' missing for days
Three children who were identified as possible trafficking victims went missing from local authority care for more than three days, it has emerged.
A further 24 children went missing in Essex for less than 72 hours last year, according to details released under the Freedom of Information Act.
Essex County Council had deemed the youngsters at risk of trafficking.
A spokesman said it took its responsibilities towards looked-after children "very seriously".
Essex County Council, which was recently given an "outstanding" rating by Ofsted for its children's social care services, released the figures after a request by the Local Democracy Reporting Service..
The number of youngsters suspected of being at risk of trafficking in the UK has increased by 58% since 2014-15, according to the charity Missing People.
A spokesman for Essex County Council confirmed that all 27 children had since been accounted for and returned to their care placements.
He said: "Young people can go 'missing' for various reasons, including to visit friends or family members.
"It is not always the case they are 'missing' for long periods of time - a young person might be recorded missing if they are a few minutes late returning for a curfew. However, in all cases our social workers will meet with them on their return, enabling children to talk about their concerns and the reasons for leaving so appropriate action can be taken."
The council said the number of children in Essex reported as missing was low, and that it worked closely with Essex Police and other agencies.
Not all children who were assessed as being at risk of trafficking had actually been a victim, it added.