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New framework launched for reporting missing children and young people in care

A pilot framework explaining how services should handle suspected missing children and young people cases has launched.

31/05/23

New framework launched for reporting missing children and young people in care

The National Police Chief’s Council has developed a new approach to reporting children who are thought to have gone missing from care.

Stakeholders and charities that were part of a national task and finish group to fix the issue said that, until now, there have been inconsistencies in how and when suspected missing children are reported, resulting in delayed or premature reporting.

Delayed reporting leads to missed safeguarding opportunities, while premature reporting can result in avoidable police contact and potential criminalisation of a young person, when they might just be late home or testing boundaries.

“The overall aim of this framework is to ensure that all children in the care of a local authority in England receive an appropriate and timely response when they are not where they are expected to be; and that everything possible is done by all multi agency partners to reduce risk and harm, enable a child’s safe return and prevent repeat missing occurrences,” the framework explains.

It adds that Local Safeguarding Children Partnerships should have “clear and accessible” Missing Children Policies and Procedures in place, alongside learning and development pathways to ensure practitioners and carers respond appropriately to missing occurrences and are confident in their decision making.

The Children who go Missing from Care Framework includes an escalation policy, which gives carers the power to challenge a police decision to delay their response, if they feel a child is at risk of significant harm.

A post-incident escalation policy is also due to be implemented to review cases which are repeatedly being delayed by police, as well as cases where carers are repeatedly reporting children missing when it is unnecessary to do so.

The pilot was launched on International Missing Children’s Day last week by Deputy Chief Constable for West Yorkshire Police, Catherine Hankinson, at the National Missing People Conference in Bradford.

A virtual information session on the framework was held for social workers, police, residential managers, accommodation providers, carers, fostering agencies and relevant third sector organisations, where professionals could learn more about the proposals.

Head of practice at The Fostering Network, Sarah McEnhill, said it is “vital that the right, consistent, approaches area in place to support children and young people.”

“By working together and using this framework, foster carers, police and other partners can ensure those young people, who may be more vulnerable and at risk of exploitation, are safe, while avoiding unnecessary police contact if they are simply late home.”

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