Joint Protocol Warwickshire Children Missing from Home, Care & Education Protocol
1 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. Joint Protocol Warwickshire Children Missing from Home, Care & Education Protocol
2 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. Contents Page 1. Introduction 4 2. Background 5 3. Definitions 6 4. Principle and scope 7 5. Partnership Working 9 6. Identifying a Missing Child Initial action Failure to report a child missing Role of Police Information to be provided to Police when reporting a child missing 10 7. Missing children investigations 15 8. Publicity and media strategy 17 9. Local and return of missing children Safe and well check Independent return interview 18 10.Multi-Agency Review of Missing Children Missing intervention meetings Escalation system of intervention, chairing and responsibility Strategy Meeting Direct work from Missing Children’s Practitioner Monitoring and oversight of missing children and young people 22 11.
Proactive Management of Missing Children Responsibilities in relation to Children Looked After Risk Assessment Organised activity providers Foster Carers and residential care providers Responsible Local Authority Host Local Authority Children unaccompanied and trafficked from abroad Absconder 25 12.Trafficking 30
3 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. 13. Roles and responsibilities Police powers The Local Authority Healthcare professionals The role of out of hours response 30 14.Ofsted: Disclosure to Police and notification of serious incidents 33 15.Recording and sharing of information 33 16.Children who are not found 34 17.Prevention Strategy 35 18.Safeguarding children missing from education Overview of risks and definition Required actions 36 19.Contact Information 38 20.Appendices Appendices for Multi-agency partner agencies Appendix 1: Missing children from home and care process map Appendix 2a: Children missing education from other Local Authorities process map Appendix 2b: Children missing education from Warwickshire process map Appendix 3a: Children missing early years education best practice Appendix 3b: Children missing early years education protocol 39
4 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. 1. Introduction 1.1 This protocol is important for the safeguarding of Children & Families across Warwickshire, or those using services in the area. It should be read and implemented, where necessary, by all practitioners and managers working with children or young people who are at risk of going missing or have already gone missing from home, care or education. 1.2 It is intended that this protocol will assist in developing robust responses to running away, which mirror the good practice already established across Warwickshire with regards to children and young people (hereafter referred to as 'children') at risk of sexual exploitation and trafficking.
For the purposes of this document a child is anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. 1.3 It should be used to engage partner agencies in developing preventative services for children and young people who are at risk of running away. 1.4 Warwickshire Police, Warwickshire County Council, and the Warwickshire Safeguarding Children Board have written it jointly, with contribution from Barnardo’s. The first protocol was agreed in 2012 and this version has been updated in 2017 to reflect the developments in practice, research and legislation. The procedure has been developed in accordance with the statutory Guidance on Children who Runaway or Go Missing from Home or Care (2014), Department for Education.
1.5 The Safeguarding Children Board will be responsible for ensuring an annual review of the effectiveness of all aspects of the protocol. 1.6 The most effective assessment and support comes through good information sharing, joint assessments of need, joint planning, and professional trust within the interagency network and joint action in partnership with families. 1.7 Warwickshire Safeguarding Children Board expects all agencies working with children or young people who are missing from home, care or education to implement this protocol and ensure that all relevant staff are aware of it and how to use it.
5 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. 2. Background 2.1 In 2016-2017, there were 1621 missing children episodes in Warwickshire. The Warwickshire Safeguarding Children Board have placed missing children, along with child sexual exploitation and trafficking, as a key priority. The Warwickshire missing, exploited and trafficked strategy 2017-2020 sets an ambitious agenda, which includes reducing the number of missing episodes by 40% by 2020. 2.2 There are a number of reasons why children may go missing, usually referred to as the “push and pull” factors. Academic research shows that children who go missing are often very vulnerable.
Children may go missing for a number of different reasons including arguments and conflicts, poor family relationships, physical, emotional or sexual abuse, behaviour or boundaries and control. Some children might be coerced or groomed to go missing by others who wish to exploit them.
2.3 There a number of immediate risks associated with going missing, which could include: Involvement in criminal activities Victim of abuse Victim of crime, for example through sexual assault and exploitation Alcohol/substance misuse Deterioration of physical and mental health Missing out on education Sexual and financial exploitation as a result of trafficking 2.4 In addition, evidence from across the UK and from missing episodes that occur in Warwickshire, children are at significant risk when missing of: Child sexual exploitation Trafficking Modern Day Slavery Long-term drug dependency/alcohol dependency Homelessness Disengagement from education Poor physical and/or mental health 2.5 All cases of child sexual exploitation in Warwickshire also have an element of children going missing; some of these missing episodes may be reported or unreported.
Intelligence gathered from children who have been missing has been essential in initiating safeguarding provisions for children and/or Police
6 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. investigations. Therefore, the risk of child sexual exploitation to children who are missing is significant. It is always a possibility that a child may have experienced abuse or grooming whilst missing or potentially been a victim of trafficking. Particularly where children go missing repeatedly, a rapid and an effective response is required to locate the child and to ensure support and intervention occurs to reduce and stop the missing episodes. 3. Definitions 3.1 The College of Policing APP defines missing as: “Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located and their well-being or otherwise confirmed.
All reports of missing people sit within a continuum of risk from ‘no apparent risk (absent)’ through to high-risk cases that require immediate, intensive action.” 3.2 In addition, and for the purposes of this guidance, any child whose whereabouts are known but who is not at their placement (unauthorised absence) or place they are expected to be AND the parents/carers have concerns about risk or vulnerability, should be treated as missing and reported to the Police in the same way.
3.3 The following definitions apply to this protocol and relate to children who run away or go missing from home, care or education. Child: anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. ‘Children’ and ‘young people’ are used throughout this guidance to refer to anyone under the age of 18. Young runaway: a child who has run away from their home or care placement, or who feels they have been forced or lured to leave. Missing child: a child reported as missing to the Police by their family or carers.
Child Looked After: a child who is looked after by a Local Authority by reason of a care order, or being accommodated under section 20 of the Children Act 1989.
Responsible Local Authority: the Local Authority that is responsible for a Looked After Child’s care and care planning. Host Local Authority: the Local Authority in which a Looked After Child is placed when placed out of the responsible Local Authority’s area. Care leaver: an eligible, relevant or former relevant child as defined by the Children Act 1989.
Away from placement without authorisation: a Looked After Child whose whereabouts are known but who is not at their placement or place
7 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. they are expected to be and the carer has concerns, or the incident has been notified to the Local Authority or the Police. Parent: The parents, friends, relatives, or those providing private fostering arrangements who look after the child at their current place of residence. Carer: The care provider who has delegated responsibility by the Local Authority and those with parental responsibility for the child to act in ‘loco parentis’.
Unaccompanied children from overseas: Children who travel from abroad and are found without parents who live in the UK. Children Missing From Education: Children missing from education are defined as children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than at school, for example by being electively educated at home or in alternative provision.
4. Principles and scope 4.1 The purpose of the protocol is to assist agencies and practitioners from all agencies to develop robust responses to children who run away or go missing. The following safeguarding principles should be adopted by Warwickshire LSCB and its partner agencies in relation to identifying and locating children who go missing: Every missing episode is potentially serious. The safety and welfare of the child/young person is paramount. Locating and returning the child to a safe environment is the main objective.
Where known information is minimal, the risk cannot be accurately assessed without active investigation.
It does not mean low or no risk; appropriate lines of enquiry should be set to gather the required information to inform the risk assessment. The fact that the child or young person may have gone missing on a number of previous occasions does not reduce the risk. In fact, children or young people who repeatedly go missing may be being enticed away from their placement by risky activities that they see as exciting or by predatory influences and, as such, the risk is increased. Furthermore, short absences may be as risky as lengthy ones.
The length of time a child has been missing should be a contributory factor to the assessment of risk. Understanding the circumstances of the child/young person going missing and seeking to reduce the risk of further episodes. Interventions are important in attempting to address repeat missing episodes. They
8 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. must be informed by effective return interviews, multi-agency risk assessments and reflected as SMART actions in the child’s Care Plan. A child or young person's concerns will be taken seriously; they should feel heard.
Interventions are important in attempting to address repeat missing episodes. Interventions for Children Looked After must be informed by and reflected in the placement information record and in the Care Plan for children in care. Interventions must also be informed by effective return interviews. Children’s views and concerns will be taken seriously. All professionals need to be careful not to label young people despite challenging and/or criminal behaviour the young person is involved in. The starting point should always be that young people who go missing are in potentially dangerous situations because of complex push and pull factors.
All professionals will be mindful to give careful consideration to address equality issues in relation to ethnicity, religion, gender, disability and sexual orientation. It is important that any relevant information obtained is shared with all partner agencies, to ensure effective future safeguarding. Information and intelligence should be shared via local processes with the host and home Local Authorities and the Police. Warwickshire will undertake Return Home Interviews for all children placed in its area, free of charge. We expect Children Looked After placed in other Local Authority areas to receive Return Home Interviews also free of charge.
Warwickshire County Council will not agree to pay for these services and expect this principle to be replicated by other Local Authorities. Where this is not the case, this will be challenged by the Service Manager for lead responsibility for missing children and arrangements made to ensure a Return Home Interview is conducted. 4.2 The aim of the protocol is: To reduce the incidence of all children going missing and the risks associated with children who go missing; To prevent the missing child suffering harm and to recover the child to safety as soon as possible. We do this by partnership working, information sharing, and problem solving and performance management.
9 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. 4.3 The protocol is designed for: All children living within the boundaries of Warwickshire. Children Looked After by the Local Authority placed within children’s homes, supported accommodation or foster homes within the Local Authority boundaries. Children Looked After by the Local Authority who are living with parents or relatives and who are subject of a care order. Children Looked After by the Local Authority placed outside of Warwickshire. The Local Authority retains responsibility for Children Looked After and placed outside the Local Authority boundaries.
In these cases the Local Authority will require the placement provider to comply with these protocols and protocols local to their area. Other Local Authorities placing children within 'the Local Authority' boundary will be required to comply with these protocols.
4.4 Within this context, “Children Looked After” refers to children accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, children subject to Care Orders including Interim Care Orders and Emergency Protection Orders, Section 31, 38 and 44 Children Act 1989, and children who are otherwise provided with accommodation via Section 21 Children Act 1989. 4.5 These include PACE transfers, children on remand and children subject of a supervision order with a residence requirement. 4.6 In addition the protocol will apply to all young people placed within the county or Local Authority boundaries (including those aged over 18) for whom Warwickshire County Council has continuing responsibilities under The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.
5. Partnership Working 5.1 A key strength within Warwickshire is the partnership working by statutory and voluntary sector. This enables a responsive service to ensure the needs of children and their parents or carers are met. 5.2 The delivery of services for missing children from home and care is led by the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), Missing and Trafficking Team. However, only through all agencies continuing to work together to share information will children receive an effective response. 5.3 It is agreed that Warwickshire County Council will report a child missing to the Police according to this protocol.
Warwickshire Police will also receive and
10 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. record reports of children missing from home or care. Warwickshire Police ensure all under 18’s reported missing are notified to Warwickshire Children's and Families Business Unit on a daily basis. The missing episodes are sent to the Missing Team for further follow up and a Return Home Interview is offered to the child. 5.4 In regards to children missing education, schools will report children missing education to the County Council, Children Missing Education Team who will share information as necessary with the Police, the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), Missing and Trafficking Team, as necessary.
For children in the Early Years settings (nonstatutory school age), Warwickshire has a best practice guidance in place. This has been developed in line with the statutory guidance for Local Authorities on Children Missing Education (DfE 2016). See appendices. 5.5 The County Council and the Police will monitor compliance with the protocol and monitor outcomes jointly via quarterly joint performance reports reporting to the Warwickshire Children’s Safeguarding Board. 6. Identifying a Missing Child 6.1 In the event that a child cannot be located but the parent/carer has any concern about their whereabouts or safety or child may pose a risk to others, there should be no delay in calling the Police and reporting the child as missing.
Initial Action 6.2 When a child is missing, the parents or carers should make reasonable efforts to locate the child before calling the Police. Parents and carers should complete the following tasks outlined below prior to calling the Police, unless there is a reasonable belief that the child is at risk of harm or is especially vulnerable. Parents or carers may need Police support if they are very distressed or otherwise unable to undertake enquiries. 6.3 In the event that a child cannot be located, and where it is safe to do so, basic steps taken to locate and establish wellbeing might include: Search the bedroom/house/outbuildings/vehicles.
Contact known friends and relatives where the child may be. Visit locations that the child is known to frequent. Attempt to contact the child on the telephone, via text or social media. If applicable checking with the school, college, other education provider or work placement.
11 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. If the child is looked after make appropriate enquiries with the child’s parents and other relatives, make appropriate enquiries with other residential homes, Foster Carers, residential schools and make enquiries with other carers and professionals who have been involved with the child. Failure to report a child missing a. Failure to report a missing child to the Police by those with parental responsibility or delegated responsibility could be considered as a safeguarding concern which may need further assessment. b. Anyone who has care of a child in a location unknown to those with parental responsibility should also do what is reasonable to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.
They should inform the Police, Children & Families, and the parents of their whereabouts and safety. If this is not complied with, the Police should consider advice or warning under the Child Abduction Act 1984, if it is appropriate.
6.5 Where it comes to the attention of any agency that a child is missing, they must advise the parent/carer of their need to report this matter to the Police. They also need to advise the parent of the agency’s duty to ensure that the matter is reported to the Police and if necessary follow this up by contacting the Police to verify that the child has been reported missing. 6.6 Any adult who has care of a child in a location unknown to those with parental responsibility should also do what is reasonable to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. They should inform the Police, Children & Families, and the parents of their whereabouts and safety.
If this is not complied with, the Police should consider advice or warning under the Child Abduction Act 1984, if it is appropriate.
6.7 Anyone who ‘takes or detains’ a runaway under 16 years old without lawful authority may be prosecuted under Section 2 of the Child Abduction Act 1984. The Police may formally warn a person under the abduction legislation prior to prosecution and a subsequent marker may be placed against them on their Police National Computer (PNC) record. 6.8 Children under the age of 16 years old are not legally considered as being able to live independently. For children over the age of 16 years old, consideration should be given by all agencies coming in contact with them as to their legal status and physical and emotional needs when making a judgment as to whether they can live independently.
12 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. Role of Police 6.9 The Police force, as the lead agency for investigating and finding missing children, will respond to children and young people going missing (or absent) based on on-going risk assessments and in line with current guidance. 6.10 On receiving a report of a child being missing from home, the Police will carry out enquiries (which are proportionate to the perceived risk determined by the Police on the basis of information provided to them at the time of reporting the child missing and in line with the history) aimed at locating the child as soon as possible.
Detailed and accurate information must be recorded about the circumstances and the reasons for making the report. This will ensure that the correct level of risk is assessed and appropriate Police action prioritised. 6.11 An immediate risk assessment will be made on the basis of the questions asked by the call handler. In preparation, the person making the report should consider: The circumstances around being unable to locate the child. The age, basic details and description (including last known clothing). The legal status and who holds parental responsibility. The maturity of the child or young person.
The possible reasons for the child going missing and their likely intentions.
Whether the child is running from or to anything. Medical needs or need for urgent or ongoing medical treatment. Whether they use or are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. The influence of peer groups/family. Patterns of criminality or offending. Any learning or physical disability of the child. Environmental factors such as weather, time of year, community events or tensions. Any known risk of abduction. Danger posed by the child to themselves and others. General vulnerability of the child.
Predatory influences on the child including others wanting to use them for crime, sex or drugs.
Previous behaviour and history of the child especially regarding reported or unreported missing episodes, including number and the duration. Possible or actual vulnerability to trafficking, human slavery or radicalisation.
13 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. 6.12 A risk assessment will be carried out for each individual on every separate occasion they are reported missing to the Police. This risk assessment, usually conducted by the Initial Investigating Officer and subsequently confirmed or revised by a supervising officer, will form the basis for the subsequent investigation into the child’s disappearance. Children and young people reported as missing will not be classed as low risk. 6.13 Where a child is not known to the Police or there is limited information available, a joint assessment should be undertaken with multi-agency partners at the earliest opportunity to inform a review of the risk level.
Children and young people reported as missing will not be classed as low risk. Risk levels can only be reduced following review of new information to ensure that there is no delay in safely locating the child at the earliest possible time. 6.14 As a guide, the Police authorised professional practice states risks should be graded as detailed within the table below: Level of risk Definition Actions required No apparent risk (absent) There is no apparent risk of harm to either the subject or the public.
Actions to locate the subject and/or gather further information should be agreed with the informant and a latest review time set to reassess the risk. Low risk The risk of harm to the subject or the public is assessed as possible but minimal. Proportionate enquiries should be carried out to ensure that the individual has not come to harm. There is no apparent risk of danger to either the subject or the public. In Warwickshire, NO child aged 15 or under is ever considered to be at low risk. 16 and 17 year olds rarely could be classed as low risk.
Medium risk The risk of harm to the subject or the public is assessed as likely but not serious.
This category requires an active and measured response by the Police and other agencies in order to trace the missing person and support the person reporting. High risk The risk of serious harm to the subject or the public is assessed as very This category almost always requires the immediate deployment of Police resources – action may be delayed in exceptional circumstances, such as searching water or forested areas
14 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. likely. during hours of darkness. A member of the senior management team must be involved in the examination of initial lines of enquiry and approval of appropriate staffing levels. Such cases should lead to the appointment of an Investigating Officer (IO) and possibly an SIO, and a Police search adviser (PolSA). There should be a media strategy and/or close contact with outside agencies. Family support should be put in place where appropriate. Children & Families must also be notified immediately if the person is under 18.
6.15 Children who have gone missing may come to the attention of the Police in a variety of circumstances.
Where the Police locate a child who they believe may be missing, although not officially reported, assessment and enquiries based on the child's account of the circumstances will be made. These should include checks of Police systems as well as enquiries at the home address. In the event that a missing child has not been reported by parents/carers, this should trigger further proportionate enquiries and assessment by the Police and other relevant agencies in accordance with safeguarding procedures. 6.16 If enquiries identify risk factors at the home address, safeguarding procedures will be implemented.
If the Police decide not to return the child to the home address, options should be discussed with Children & Families to identify suitable responsible adult(s) and/or accommodation. This includes the Emergency Duty Team being contacted after hours. The Police ICT systems should also be checked.
Information to be provided to Police when reporting a child missing 6.17 When reporting a missing child to the Police, the person making the referral should provide to the Police as much information as possible. The minimum information that must be provided is: Name of the person missing, including aliases, nicknames Age and date of birth Description of the person, including gender and ethnicity Description of missing person's appearance, including clothing The last known location of the person A recent photograph of the child in all cases where the child is looked after
15 Updated 01.12.2017.
Next review on 01.12.2019. 6.18 If possible, a recent photograph should also be provided for children who are open to Children & Families. Before photographs can be used in missing enquiries, permission from those with parental responsibility must be sought or from the Children & Families Service Manager where the child is looked after. 6.19 Information to be provided to Police, wherever possible when reporting includes: The child's legal status including any bail conditions or court orders regarding residence Immigration status Home address Location missing from if different from above Mobile phone numbers of missing person Vehicles or transport used by missing person Access to money and details of cash cards Details of medication and any illness Address of GP and Dentist Circumstances of going missing Whether the behaviour is out of character Cultural issues to consider e.g.
possible honour crime Has this happened before and details of previous incidents Name, address and telephone number of person reporting Details of any known acquaintances Details of any searched and enquiries already carried out Identify dangers in the immediate vicinity especially for vulnerable young missing persons e.g. ponds, rivers 7. Missing Children Investigations 7.1 When receiving a report of a missing child, the Police will carry out a risk assessment and classify the child as either missing or absent. This frames the Police response to the incident. A new risk assessment will be carried out on each occasion that a child goes missing.
7.2 Where a child has been classified as absent, parents and carers should ensure that any new information is shared with the Police. The Police will regularly review their classification and will escalate cases where there is an increasing concern about the level of risk to a child. 7.3 The Police will notify the children missing team at the earliest opportunity, using the COMPACT system.
16 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. 7.4 When the Police classify a child as missing they will carry out enquiries, which are proportionate to the perceived risk, aimed at locating the child as soon as possible.
The Police will: Establish the facts and gather sufficient information about the missing person for an effective investigation and informed decision making; Where appropriate, consider using the services of interpreters to assist information gathering; Establish the family composition, history, any previous Police or other agency involvement with the family, including previous missing episodes that were not reported to the Police; Establish the last sighting of the child and the circumstances of the disappearance; Not delay any action required to facilitate the immediate recovery of the missing child; Seek assistance to complete urgent enquiries where this may be critical for the safe return of the missing child; Ask for details of any travel pass that child may have, savings accounts, and family addresses; Confirm known acquaintances and other details that should have been given during the initial report; Determine any circumstances which might increase the risk to the child; Obtain statements from the reporting person and relevant witnesses; Obtain a recent photograph.
The informant should sign the rear of the photograph to endorse its validity, include the name of the missing person, date of birth if known and the approximate date the photograph was taken; Obtain permission for publicity; Conduct a thorough search of the place the child is missing from and its surroundings. This will be done even if carers have already done so and should include all rooms, cupboards and furniture where a person could hide or could have been hidden, attics, cellars, outhouses, garages, garden, grounds and all vehicles. Any area which is not searched due to lack of ready access will be recorded for review by a supervisory officer; Need to see and obtain a copy of any Care Orders.
This could be helpful in determining Police action and powers should the person be traced; Provide ‘Information for the Family / Person Reporting’ form to the person who is the point of contact for the Police; Consider the possibility that the child may have been admitted to hospital either unconscious or having given false details. They may also give false details if taken into custody.
17 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. 8. Publicity and Media Strategy 8.1 Publicity appeals can make the missing child feel like someone cares, encouraging him or her to reach out to the missing children hotline or family members, thereby helping the child return to safety. However, it can be hard for a former missing child to put the past behind them because they do not have control over their ‘digital footprint’ (images and information that remains online); the media continue to keep the story alive years after the fact and abducted children can be bullied when they return to school.
These risks need to be considered when the decision is made to use publicity. 8.2 Before deciding whether to initiate a public appeal, the Police and Children & Families need to seek legal advice to ensure that the permission of the Court is sought, as required for children in care and subject to ongoing Family Court proceedings. If publicity is initiated in these situations without a Court Order, this may breach Section 97 Children Act 1989 and the professionals may be in contempt of Court. Where children are subject to proceedings within the Family Court, legal advice must be obtained and usually an urgent Court hearing should be sought before publicity is initiated.
8.3 As the lead agency in the investigation of a missing child, the Police, in consultation with Children & Families, will take a lead role in advising the media regarding any missing child. The Police will draft a communication plan and press statement which will be shared and agreed by the County Council Communications Team before it is released. The contact details for the team are as follows: Warwickshire County Council Marketing and Communications Telephone: 01926 413727 Email: email@example.com 8.4 When a child is missing from home, the Police will liaise with the child’s parents about informing the press.
8.5 When a child is missing from care, the decisions to inform the media will be taken at a senior level by the Police together with the Service Manager of Children & Families. The Service Manager will take responsibility in informing the Head of Service, the Director of Children & Families, and the County Council senior leadership team including the Leader of the Council and the Portfolio Holder. The media should only be informed when all inquiries have been exhausted and following an updated risk assessment determining the level of risk as being high.
18 Updated 01.12.2017.
Next review on 01.12.2019. 8.6 Any publicity will be arranged at a local level, by direction of the Chief Inspector, or an appropriate person nominated by them. Parents and Foster Carers should always be informed of details being released to the media prior to any such release. Where appropriate, this should be carried out through the child’s Social Worker. 8.7 The Police will inform the Missing People Charity (www.missingpeople.org.uk) of all missing children, as, follows: Within 3 hours if high risk Within 72 hours if medium risk Within 72 hours if low risk The Police may also utilise the website facility of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (www.icmec.org) to publicise the need to locate a missing child.
8.8 The criteria for launching a Child Rescue Alert are strict so as to ensure the public and the media do not become de-sensitised to them. The four criteria, all of which MUST be satisfied before an alert is issued, are as follows: The child is under 18 years old. AND There is a reasonable belief that the child has been kidnapped or abducted. AND There is a reasonable belief that the child is in imminent danger of serious harm or death. AND There is sufficient information available to enable the public to assist Police in locating the child.
Source: Warwickshire Police Child Rescue Alert Operating Procedures and Guidance.
9. Location and Return of Missing Children 9.1 When a missing child is found, their parents and carers must be informed immediately. If the child has returned home of their own accord, or is found by parents or carers, then they must inform the Police immediately. The Police will also notify any other person or agency that has been notified of the missing child of the child’s return.
19 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. 9.2 The Police will notify the Missing Children’s Team of the child/young person’s return via the computer system, COMPACT. 9.3 In most circumstances, parents or carers should make arrangements to transport the child to their home address, or placement if they have not returned of their own accord. 9.4 If a child is found in circumstances that are considered unsafe, the Police can consider whether to use their powers to take a child into Police Protection. The Police do not have the power to use force to take a child into Police Protection.
If there are insufficient grounds to instigate Police Protection, or the child does not cooperate, then the Police must liaise with Children & Families to agree what steps may be appropriate and necessary to safeguard the child. If the child is subject to a care order, then the Local Authority should seek legal advice and actively consider approaching the courts for a recovery order. Safe and well check 9.5 The Police must conduct a safe and well check for all children who are found following a missing episode. This will include establishing whether they have been a victim of crime, offering any medical attention if required where this has not already been established by parent, carers, or other agency professional that located the child.
9.6 The safe and well check must be conducted by an appropriately trained Police Officer face to face with the child who went missing. The interview seeks to establish basic information about the missing episode including where the child went, what they did, and who they were with. If the child makes an allegation of crime that occurred whilst they were missing or that contributed to them running away, the officer will record this allegation and take appropriate action. 9.7 As part of the safe and well check, the Police are required to advise the young person and parent/care or placement that the young person will be offered a Return Home Interview (RHI).
9.8 If it is apparent on the return of a child that they have been the victim of a crime whilst absent, or that they may be in danger or at risk from any person arising out of circumstances that have occurred whilst they were absent, then the Police will instigate further enquiries. This is vital for the protection of the child and for the speedy recovery of evidence. In such circumstances, the missing child's clothing, mobile phone and trace evidence from their body, fingernails or hair may be crucial. In cases of actual or suspected sexual abuse, the child should be discouraged from washing and immediate advice sought from the Police.
The Police should advise parent/carers if they become
20 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. aware of the location of a scene of any crime committed against the child, or of the location of any crucial evidence (i.e. a used condom), they must notify the Police without delay. This will enable the Police to take steps to secure and preserve evidence. 9.9 Additionally, in matters of sexual exploitation, or any other situation which indicates that the child may have been subject to or was at risk of significant harm, a referral must be made to the Local Authority in accordance with local safeguarding procedures.
Independent Return Home Interview 9.10 The Return Home Interview (RHI) is triggered by the CSE, Missing and Trafficking Team when they receive notification through COMPACT that the young person has been found or has returned.
The team will allocate a Missing Children’s Practitioner (MCP) to undertake the RHI. 9.11 The role of the Missing Children’s Practitioner is to take lead responsibility for completion of the RHI, the actions designed to address underlying concerns, and identifying the reasons for young people missing from home and accommodation. The MCP is independent of both the Police Service and Children & Families. The MCP is responsible for conducting interviews/assessments with young people and building good quality relationships with vulnerable young people and designing an action plan or contribute to already existing plan, such as Child In Need, Child Protection Plan or to the Care Plan to address those issues.
This process will lead to a high level of analysis regarding the underlying issues and problems that increase the risk of the young person running from home. The MCP will have overall responsibility for this process. The child/young person should be informed that this facility is available at the Police safe and well check, should they wish to talk to someone independent.
9.12 Missing Children’s Practitioners will proactively seek to engage a child or young person, contacting them a minimum of three times, usually by three different methods (telephone call, text, discussion with parent/carer/school or through social media) within 24 hours of receiving the notification. The purpose is to engage the young person and arrange a time to meet to undertake the Return Home Interview (RHI) within 72 hours of receipt of the notification that the child has returned. 9.13 Return Home Interviews should be independent which means the person completing them is not involved in the care or case planning for the child.
Therefore, RHI’s should not be conducted by Social Workers or the care provider. Allocated Social Workers and/or Foster Carers cannot refuse a Return Home Interview being conducted. If Social Workers and/or Foster
21 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. Carers do refuse for a Child Looked After to receive a Return Home Interview, this must be escalated to Operations Manager level who should challenge why an independent RHI is not agreed. A Return Home Interview must always be offered to a child or young person. 9.14 If a parent has refused a Return Home Interview, the Missing Children’s Practitioners will explore the reasons for the refusal. If the MCP has safeguarding concerns about the child’s welfare or parental capacity, they will discuss with the Team Manager for the Missing, CSE and Trafficking Team to consider what actions need to be taken.
For the children or young person who have an allocated Social Worker or an Early Help Single Assessment, this information can be shared with the allocated workers to allow further assessment and support needs to be considered. For children and young people who do not have an allocated worker, a referral to the MASH will need to be considered. The reasons for the refusal and further actions will be recorded in the RHI.
9.15 The venue of the RHI may be influenced by the wishes and feelings of the child or young person. The child can ask to be accompanied by a responsible adult of their choosing. If they would like to be accompanied by a responsible adult but cannot identify someone who they are happy with to accompany them, an advocate should be available to fulfil this role. For children or young people whose first language is not English, they must always be offered the use of an interpreter. 9.16 Every Return Home Interview should include a plan of action which will be authorised by a Team Manager within the CSE, Missing and Trafficking Team.
The Team Manager will satisfy themselves with the assessment, ensure any crimes committed are reported to the Police without delay by the completion of a PVP1, and ensure any intelligence is collated. The MCP must follow up and ensure if there is an allocated Social Worker that relevant information is shared in a timely way and plans agreed. MCP will also ensure that any appropriate referral and plan of intervention is initiated; this might include initiation of an early help assessment and support, a referral to the MultiAgency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), advocacy referral, or requests to the allocated worker for changes to the Care Plan to support the child e.g.
more contact with family or increased support at home or in placement. 9.17 All RHI without exception are shared in full with the Police who will ensure the information is loaded onto COMPACT. The RHI will also be shared with other relevant professionals or agencies, this will include the lead professional for the child, school or GP depending on the information shared. Young people will be informed at the beginning of the interview process that information is shared with other agencies. Where young people disagree with information
22 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. being shared, an agreement will be sought with the young person, with Team Managers oversight and approval, that the Police will be informed of the young person’s wishes. Such situations should be rare and be part of an overall strategy of engagement with the young person towards sharing information with agencies at an appropriate time in the future. 10. Multi-Agency Review of Missing Children 10.1 There is a requirement for a multi-agency meeting to be undertaken when children or young people have repeatedly been missing or if they have remained missing for a significant period of time.
The aim of multi-agency missing meetings is to consider any ‘push’ or ‘pull’ factors which impact on the missing child’s welfare and circumstances. In the case of ‘pull’ factors, it may be necessary to target those in the community who harbour the missing person or exploit them with regard to crime, trafficking, sex or drugs. It should plan for their safe recovery and actions to be taken to safeguard them once they are located, including the appropriate placement. 10.2 The criteria to initiate a multi-agency meeting include: A child who has gone missing three times in a 90-day period. Any case where the risks involved in even a single future missing episode are very high.
Cases where it has been identified that immediate action is necessary to ensure the wellbeing of the child/ young person. Children and young people are missing for a significant period of time, more than 72 hours. One individual having between four and six missing episodes in one year. 10.3 There will be an escalating system of interventions to reduce the likelihood of a child repeatedly going missing. Meetings at the higher level should only be required for a small number of children considered to be at highest risk. There will be some children who go missing repeatedly within a short period of time.
In these cases, the higher level of intervention will immediately apply. 10.4 The Service Manager with lead responsibility for children who are missing should be informed of all children who are missing for more than 72 hours. They will inform the Head of Service within Children & Families and Director of Children & Families. Within the Police, the Chief Inspector with lead responsibility for missing children should be informed of all children who are missing for more than 72 hours. They will then inform the Superintendent. Senior Officers must satisfy themselves that all necessary actions are being taken to locate the child.
23 Updated 01.12.2017. Next review on 01.12.2019. Missing Intervention Meetings 10.5 When children or young people have recorded 3 missing episodes within a 90 day or 3 month period (Stage1), or 5 missing episodes within a 90 day period (Stage 2), a Missing Intervention Meeting (MIM) will be convened. This meeting is to occur within 5 working days of the last missing episode. It remains the responsibility of the allocated Social Worker for the child (if they are already open to Children & Families) to initiate this meeting. A reminder that the trigger for a meeting has been met will be sent by the CSE, Missing and Trafficking Team.
10.6 Where a child is not known to a Social Worker, the Missing Intervention Meeting will be initiated and chaired by a Team Manager from the CSE, Missing and Trafficking Team. 10.7 Missing Intervention Meetings will include the parents/carer, young person and all appropriate professionals who are working with the child or young person. It is expected that representatives from education, health and Police are included in the meeting. Minutes from the meeting should be taken and circulated to all relevant agencies. This should include a plan of intervention to support the child and designed to stop further missing episodes.
The plan should be monitored, usually through Social Work intervention that is already in place on a Child In Need, Child Protection, or Child Looked After process, or by a lead professional through the Early Help process.
10.8 Some children who do not meet the above trigger points may need a multiagency meeting with a clear Care Plan; therefore, professionals need to use their professional judgement. Escalating system of intervention, chairing and responsibility 10.9 The first Missing Intervention Meeting will be chaired and managed by a Team Manager in Children & Families if they have an allocated Social Worker or within the CSE, Missing and Trafficking Team if they are not allocated to Children & Families. 10.10 Where a child has continued to go missing and has 6 missing episodes in one year or where there is risk around a single episode and/or immediate action is necessary to ensure the child’s wellbeing, these intervention meetings should be chaired by an Operations Manager from the allocated team.
Strategy Meeting 10.11 Where a child has been missing for a significant period of time, the first Strategy Meeting within 72 hours should be chaired by an Operations Manager within Children & Families and attended by a Detective Sergeant from the Police. This meeting should be held under the Child Protection