4.2 Missing Children
This policy should be read in conjunction with the following:
- Joint protocol concerning children and young people who run away or go missing from home or care-to include reports of absences from April 29th 2014 (Children’s Services Authorities and Thames Valley Police);
- Children Missing Education (MK Council).
RELATED NATIONAL GUIDANCE
- Children Missing Education - Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (Department for Education (2015);
- DfE Statutory Guidance on Children Who Run Away and Go Missing from Home or Care, January 2014;
- Police Interim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons (2013).
- College of Policing. Missing persons. 2017
Health staff should also refer to the NHS East Midland Missing Children and families Alert System (May 2011). This is the process to locate children who have disappeared from view following an undisclosed change of address and for whom there may be concerns about child welfare in respect of unmet need, vulnerability or abuse.
This chapter was updated in October 2014, when a link to Statutory Guidance on Children Missing Education was added (see above).
- 1. Definitions
- 2. Did You Know?
- 3. Remember
- 4. Circumstances for Implementation of Procedure
- 5. Professionals should Inform
- 6. Children's Social Care must then Inform
- 7. Strategy Meeting
- 8. When a Child is Found
- 9. Decision-making for All Cases
- 10. Child Indicated by Other Local Authorities to be Missing
- 11. Children Missing Education
Interim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons (2013)used by the Police uses the following definitions:
Please Note - Thames Valley Policy will not categorise the following as absent –they will always be subject of a missing person investigation:
Statutory Guidance On Children Who Run Away Or Go Missing From Home Or Care (January 2014) uses the following definitions:
The police classification of a person as ‘Missing’ or ‘Absent’ will be based on on-going risk assessment; Absent within the police definition would not include those defined as Away from Placement Without Authorisation above: a child whose whereabouts are known would not be treated as either ‘Missing’ or ‘Absent’ under the police definitions.
2. Did You Know?
In Milton Keynes around 400 children and young people go missing each year – of these some go missing repeatedly. There are around 650 incidents of missing children and young people per year in Milton Keynes.
Females are more likely to run away than males.
The peak age range for running away is 14- to 15-years old.
Certain young people are more likely to runaway including those who define themselves as being gay, lesbian, disabled or having a learning disability as well as those living in stepfamilies and lone parent families.
There are strong links between running away and problems in other areas of young people’s lives – such as school, drug and alcohol use, child sexual exploitation and offending.
Research shows that a quarter of young runaways felt that they were forced to leave home. One in six young runaways slept rough on the most recent occasion they were away. Half stayed with friends.
One in eight runaways said that they had to resort to survival strategies such as stealing and begging whilst away from home.
Around one in 12 of runaways said that they had been hurt or harmed on the most recent occasion that they ran away.
Over two-thirds of runaways said that their parents or carers did not report them missing to the Police on the most recent occasion that they were away. A further 13% were not sure, and only a fifth (19%) said that they had been reported .
 All statistics were taken from Still Running II: findings from the second national survey of young runaways, The Children's Society 2005
There is a distinction between young people who runaway and those who are forced to leave by their parents or carers.
Children and young people who are forced to leave will often not be reported missing.
If a child is taken overseas it may be appropriate to contact the Consular Directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which offers assistance to British nationals in distress (Tel: 020 7008 1500).
4. Circumstances for Implementation of Procedure
This procedure applies if any child goes missing or cannot be traced and they are:
5. Professionals should Inform
6. Children's Social Care must then Inform
Existing records in these agencies must be checked to obtain any information which might help trace the missing child, e.g. details of friends and relatives, and this information should be passed to the police officer undertaking the missing person enquiry.
The Designated Nurse Safeguarding (01908 278675) must be notified about a missing child, family or a pregnant woman. S/he will co-ordinate the circulation of appropriate local or national notifications.
Schools should refer to the Children Missing Education (MK Council) Guidance and refer the case to the Education Welfare Service (01908 657800).
The social worker should discuss with her/his manager whether to notify members of the extended family and if so, how.
7. Strategy Meeting
If the child has not been traced within 5 working days a Strategy Meeting should be convened.
Members of the meeting will need to consider whether to circulate details of the missing child to other local authorities and other agencies in the area.
Consideration should be given to national notification of authorities and agencies including social security, the benefits agency and child benefit agency.
A senior member of Children's Social Care should seek assistance from the Department for Work and Pensions/Inland Revenue if the police have not already contacted them.
If there is any suspicion that the child may be removed from UK jurisdiction, appropriate legal interventions should be considered and legal services consulted about options.
It should also be agreed by all agencies at this stage what action will be taken when the child is found. Actions set should be relevant to the individual case.
If the Strategy Meeting agrees details of the child/family are to be circulated to other local authorities, the Lead Social Worker should draft a short letter giving details of:
The letter should be sent to the designated safeguarding manager (01908 254300) who in turn must:
8. When a Child is Found
Within 24 hours of the child’s return, the police will inform all relevant agencies of the child’s return and undertake a “safe and well” check. This will ensure as far as possible that it is safe to return to the home or care institution or placement that they have been absent from, and explore steps to minimize the likelihood of the child going missing again.
If the child is not known to Children's Services but has been missing 3 or more times within a 90 day period, Children's Services will undertake a Child and Family Single Assessment of the child's individual and family circumstances.
A joint interview by the Police and Children's Social Care will be arranged if there are already concerns in existence relating to either:
Looked After Children
An Independent Return Interview should be offered whenever a missing Looked After child is found. The person conducting the interview should usually be independent of the child’s placement and of the responsible local authority. Where possible, the child should be given the opportunity to talk before they return to their placement.
Barnardos is currently piloting this service in Milton Keynes. This interview should provide a safe opportunity for the child to discuss any concerns regarding her/his care including if s/he chose to run away from an abusive situation. It must take place without parents, foster carers or residential staff either present or in close proximity.
If the child indicates a wish to be interviewed by an alternative professional, all reasonable efforts must be made to accommodate her/his wishes.
If the child has been found outside of the local authority and is not likely to return, representatives of the 'receiving' authority must be involved in this strategy discussion and the transfer of the case must be discussed.
9. Decision-making for All Cases
If the child is Looked After, the Independent Reviewing Officer would need to decide if an early Looked After Review is required. If the child is subject of a Child Protection Plan, the designated safeguarding manager must decide and record whether to bring forward the next review conference.
The social worker and team manager must give explicit consideration to any need for legal action, and record the reasons for their decision.
10. Child Indicated by Other Local Authorities to be Missing
Each designated safeguarding manager must ensure that duty systems incorporate a method for keeping and referring to the notifications of children and/or families who are missing.
If, after two years there is no communication from the authority where the child and/or family went missing, the child and/or family's details may be removed from the list.
11. Children Missing Education
As a result of daily registration schools are particularly well placed to notice when a child has gone missing. If the missing child is subject to a Child Protection Plan, the head teacher must inform the allocated social worker immediately. If they are unavailable then they must contact the team where s/he is based.
Having made initial enquiries about the child’s whereabouts the school should refer to the Children Missing Education (MK Council) Guidance unless they have concerns as outlined above and then they must follow the guidance previously detailed.
Milton Keynes CYPS has a Child Missing Education point of contact within the Education Welfare Service and every practitioner working with a child has a responsibility to inform them if they know or suspect that a child is not receiving an education: email@example.com
The Education Welfare Service will then make the relevant enquiries.