JUST five children in care accounted for more than 350 police missing persons investigations last year.

The youngsters disappeared - on average - more than once a week in 2017-2018, raising huge concerns for their welfare.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said the five individuals topped his force’s list of missing persons. In his monthly report to the Scottish Police Authority, he confirmed that children overall accounted for two out of three of Scotland’s 23,000 “misper” probes.

He added that around 7,500 of these cases involved looked-after children.

Mr Livingstone’s remarks come nearly a decade after two teenage girls in care jumped off the Erskine Bridge over the Clyde.

Georgia Rowe, 14, and Niamh Lafferty, 15, died in 2009. They had run away from the Good Shepherd home in Erskine after alarms had been disabled - because the girls had activated them so often when they absconded. Georgia and Niamh were both considered to be at risk of self-harm.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has made children in care a priority in recent years.

Experts stress that runways are often the most troubled and troubling young people - and can be hugely vulnerable. Frequent absconders are routinely exploited, including sexually,

Mr Livingstone said: “ Children’s homes consistently appear in the top five locations, alongside hospitals, for missing persons. This is therefore an area of particular demand for Police Scotland.”

The chief constable said that this October the Centre for Excellence for Looked-After Children in Scotland independent evaluation of a pilot agreement between care providers and Police Scotland. He added: “The findings are positive, identifying improvements in joint-working, management of risk, return discussions and outcomes for young people. This approach supports the Scottish Government Missing Person Framework and developments in corporate parenting.”

Labour’s Kezia Dugdale this summer revealed there were 20 misper investigations for looked-after children a day. The figure, the MSP said, was “staggering”