RUNNING AWAY FROM CARE AND HOME
RUNNING AWAY FROM CARE AND HOME
SOUTH YORKSHIRE RUNAWAYS JOINT PROTOCOL RUNNING AWAY FROM CARE AND HOME April 2008 1
FOREWORD All statutory agencies and those within the voluntary and independent sector, together with our four Safeguarding Children Boards, are dedicated to the protection of all children and young people and in particular those who are most vulnerable and at risk of harm. The aim of this protocol is to specifically address and focus each and every person’s mind on the circumstances and the risk to which each individual child and young person is exposed. Whether a child or young person goes missing once or a hundred times, means they have done so for a particular reason.
It is important to treat each episode of running away as a fresh incident and explore the reasons for running on each separate occasion.
Children and young people who are in care, whether that be in a residential setting or with foster carers, are classed as the most vulnerable of young people. When they run away from home, they are potentially more likely to be exposed to greater dangers. In addition, children and young people who run away from home are now recognised as being increasingly vulnerable to harm and risk. This protocol seeks to set in place procedures that will not only acknowledge the risk to the child and young person but will engage each agency in sharing the responsibility for managing the process.
The Children Act 1989, the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Children Act of 2004, and Working Together to Safeguard Children 2006 stress the centrality of the child’s interest.
This protocol is, therefore, endorsed by the below named signatories as a document that is accepted as being one which will provide clear guidance to managers and the support for children and young people in vulnerable circumstances. 2
This protocol has been agreed by: Name/Agency Signed Date Chief Constable Meredydd Hughes South Yorkshire Police 20.2.08 Alan Jones Chair Sheffield LSCB 1.4.08 Alan Jones Chair Barnsley LSCB 1.4.08 Judith Dodd Chair Rotherham LSCB 30.1.08 Judith Dodd Chair Doncaster LSCB 30.1.08 Dan Dean Chair Safe@Last Board of Trustees 2.3.08 Please note – signatures have been removed for security purposes A signed master copy is held by Joyce Thacker, Chair of the South Yorkshire Runways Action Partnership, Rotherham MBC, Children and Young People’s Services Acknowledgements The following two protocols have particularly informed our thinking in developing this South Yorkshire protocol.
• ‘’Children and young people who go missing or runaway from home or care Protocol’’ – Greater Merseyside Protocol. • ‘’Uniting young runaways services’’ – East London joint Protocol framework for agencies supporting children and young people who run away from care and home. www.safeinthecity.org.uk This document has been updated through significant multi agency input including the Police, Local Authority Children and Young People’s Services, Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards, Voluntary Sector, Housing, Health, BME and Faith Groups. 3
Contents Page Page 1.
Introduction … … • The Purpose of the Protocol • Safeguarding Children • Local Safeguarding Children Boards • Legal Issues • Data Protection • Training 5-10 2. Definitions … . • Young Runaways • Unauthorised Absence • Missing • The Designated Named Manager for Young Runaways 11-12 3. Principles . 13 4. Multi Agency Working . 14 5. Roles of Specific Agencies … … • Flowchart for ALL agencies and for ALL children and young people • ALL Agencies and Voluntary Organisations • Children and Young People’s Services • Health • Housing • Police • Local Authority Children’s Social Care Services • Longer Term Absences • Children and Young People Running Away from Care • The Return Interview 15-32 6.
Bibliography . 33 7. Glossary of Terms … 34 8. Useful Resources and Contacts . 35-36 9. Appendices . .
A – Risk Assessment B – Missing Person Protocol C – Social Exclusion Unit: Services for Runaways – An Action Plan D – Complaints Procedures 37-54 4
1. Introduction This document replaces the previous South Yorkshire protocol ‘Missing from Care’ and is an update of the June 2005 ‘Running away from care and home ’. The protocol relates to all children and young people running away or missing from care or home. The protocol is applicable to the four South Yorkshire authorities of Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. The protocol framework is applicable to: • Local Authorities • Police • Other partner agencies throughout South Yorkshire The purpose of the protocol is to ensure that: • All services concerned with the care and protection of children and young people work together in accordance with the protocol and procedures.
• A clear plan is activated whenever children and young people run away/are missing. • All appropriate agencies and individuals are notified if children and young people run away/are missing and/or return.
• A clear plan of effective inter-agency action is taken to trace or return children and young people who run away/are missing. • Appropriate and effective actions are taken when children and young people return or are located. • Processes are established to track children and young people who run away/are missing from other authorities. Any children and young people who have runaway (are deemed to be ‘at risk’) should be recorded on the appropriate authority ContactPoint system when it is up and running (late 2008). These systems will enable identification of other agencies who may be working with the child or young person.
• Effective early intervention is achieved to prevent repeat running away and associated risks. • The Police are appropriately notified of children and young people who go missing or run away. • Effective monitoring procedures are in place. It is strongly recommended that monitoring and tracking of young people at risk is performed via the appropriate authority ContactPoint system. • Children and young people are positively encouraged to influence the outcome of any professional intervention.
These procedures will sit alongside the South Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board Child Protection Procedures (2007) and your own agency procedures.
Running away is a dangerous activity. It is a problem that affects approximately one in nine young people before the age of 16 years, from a broad range of backgrounds. Young people who run away or are forced to leave home are young people with a range of problems. They are: • Five times more likely than their peers to have drug problems; • Three times more likely to say they are in trouble with the Police; • Three times more likely to be truanting; and • Seven times more likely to have been physically abused (“Young Runaways” report, Social Exclusion Unit (2002)).
• In 2006, the Police recorded ‘1790’ children aged 16 or under as missing in South Yorkshire • Research into running away in South Yorkshire (Smeaton and Rees 2003) found that young people themselves reported that: • A quarter of young people will sleep rough whilst away from home.
• 18% of young runaways are forced to leave home. • Around one fifth of overnight runaways are under the age of 11. • Only around 22% of overnight runaways are reported missing to the Police. • Only 1 in 8 young runaways approached professional agencies for help. • Safe@Last, a South Yorkshire charity targeted at responding to children and young people who run away, reported from June 2006 to June 2007 the following numbers of young people they worked with: • 187 young people in Doncaster • 138 young people in Rotherham • From April 2007 to June 2007 24 young people accessed the Runaways Helpline.
Most children and young people who run away do not stay away for a long time. Most remain in their local area and stay with extended family or friends. For these young people, advice, counselling or support services should help them to return home. Some runaways, however, are more likely to experience serious problems. 6
These are: • Younger children; • Repeat runaways; and • Young people running from care. Risk factors that can contribute to children and young people running away are: • Poor parental supervision and discipline/neglect/parenting concerns; • Family conflict; sibling rivalry • A family history of problem behaviour • Parental involvement/attitudes condoning problem behaviour • Low income and poor housing • Domestic violence/abusive partner/child abuse • Parental substance/alcohol misuse • Parental mental health/learning difficulty needs • Home alone • Other child in family with disability (impacting on parenting capacity) • Homelessness or unsuitable living environment • Victims of crime/bullying/racism/emotional/homophobic abuse • Mental health concerns • Sexual exploitation (Extracted from Doncaster Preventative Strategy 2004) The immediate risks associated with running away include: • No means of support or legitimate income – leading to high risk activities • Involvement in criminal activities • Victim of crime, for example through sexual assault and exploitation • Alcohol/substance misuse • Deterioration of physical and mental health • Missing out on education • Forced marriages Longer-term risks include: • Long-term drug dependency • Crime • Homelessness and sleeping rough • Increased risk of self harm • Isolation from peer group, siblings and their community • Deterioration in academic achievement • Deterioration in self care/personal hygiene • Social exclusion 7
In 2002 the Social Exclusion Unit published their report ‘Young Runaways’. This incorporated key recommendations about the way agencies should respond to the needs of young runaways. A summary of these can be found in Section 9, Appendix C. Safeguarding Children We must always be aware that a child/young person may be running away from an abusive situation at the place where they live. It is recognised that all those who work with young runaways may be presented with complex child protection situations. It is vital therefore that all staff have an appropriate understanding of and access to child protection procedures, have received appropriate training, are properly supervised and know where to access advice and support.
All agencies have a responsibility to work together to meet the needs of children in need of protection whether this be as a result of neglect, emotional harm, sexual or physical abuse and / or sexual exploitation. When responding to the needs of young runaways the South Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board Child Protection Procedures (2007) are there to inform and guide staff as well as to protect young people and staff alike. It is important that these procedures are followed at all times when dealing with child protection issues. Local Safeguarding Children Boards Local Safeguarding Children Boards are charged with ensuring children and young people ‘stay safe from harm’ (‘Working Together’ HM Government (2006)).
It is important that this protocol fits in with the Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCB) remit and that the monitoring of this protocol is reported to the Board. Legal Issues With regards to the disclosure of information, the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) section 115 states the following: Any person who, apart from this sub-section, would not have power to disclose information: • To the relevant authority; or • To a person acting on behalf of such an authority, Shall have power to do so in any case where the disclosure is necessary or expedient for the purposes of any provision of this Act.
Data Protection Staff at the initial point of contact with a young person should: • Explain the purpose of information collection • Explain that information may need to be shared between partner organisations • Seek consent for the sharing of such information. A young person’s request that information is not shared must be respected unless: • Disclosure is in the public interest, including for the purpose of prevention or detection of crime, apprehension or prosecution of offenders • Disclosure is to protect the vital interest of the young person. All partner agencies should: • Facilitate the exchange of information wherever such exchange is lawful.
• Deal with personal data in compliance with the provisions of the Data Protection Act (including the Data Protection Principles).
• Ensure their own organisational policies and procedures comply with the Data Protection Act. • Ensure that collected data is complete, accurate and relevant to the care of an individual. • Disclose the minimum amount of relevant information on a strict need to know basis only. • Notify the data controller of information that is discovered to be inaccurate or inadequate for the purpose. • Rectify inaccurate or inadequate data and notify all other recipients who should also ensure that correction is made.
• Ensure that shared information is physically secure, and password protected where held on electronic systems.
• Ensure that, as part of their ongoing development, staff are made aware of their responsibilities and rights in respect of young person information and in line with data confidentiality agreements. • Ensure that information is readily available to young people on their rights in respect of personal information held including the complaints procedure. • Ensure that alleged breaches of confidentiality are investigated under their respective agencies complaints procedure, liaising with partner agencies where shared information or care is involved.
• Work together to develop frameworks, procedures and protocols for the sharing of personal information and to facilitate partnership arrangements. 9
Training Training is essential for all practitioners who work with children and young people to enable them to respond fully to the protocol. Local Safeguarding Children Boards and the Workforce Development Teams for Children and Young People’s Services will be charged with ensuring that appropriate and effective training, maximising the potential of e-learning, is offered particularly in risk assessments and managing the return interview.
2. Definitions Young Runaways The Social Exclusion Unit in their report Young Runaways (2002) used the following definition of a young runaway: ‘a child or young person under the age of 18 who spends one night or more away from the family home or care without permission, or has been forced to leave by their parents or carers’. This definition will be used in this protocol. In narrowing this broad definition other terms will be used to categorise young people who have run away. These are particularly pertinent to children and young people who have run away from care. For more comprehensive definitions for young people who have run away from care see Section 5 - “Children and young people running away from care”.
Unauthorised absence from care and absent from home without permission Absent for a short period of time i.e. less than overnight and after a careful and thorough risk assessment the absence does not raise concern for their immediate safety or that of the public. Missing This refers to children and young people who have gone missing independently from their families. Where concern is raised about the child or young person’s absence because their location is unknown; the reason for their absence is unknown; they are vulnerable and and/or there is a potential danger to the public. The Designated Named Manager for Young Runaways The Social Exclusion Unit (Young Runaways 2002) recommended that every Local Authority and Police Division should have a named manager in charge of runaway’s issues.
• Each of the four local authorities shall ensure that a designated named manager is appointed with responsibilities for managing its "missing from care" protocols and procedures. • Reporting information about patterns of absence among children and young people who run away and are reported missing to the Director of Children and Young People’s Services and to Councillors responsible for "corporate parenting". • Monitoring policies and performance relating to children missing from home. 11
The named Police posts have responsibility for: • Improving links with local services for runaways • Developing specialist skills and knowledge about running away • Providing a more consistent and efficient response to runaways.
The South Yorkshire Runaway Action Partnership has agreed that one of its functions is to share practice across the sub-region and monitor trends affecting young runaways. 12
3. Principles • The protocol should be flexible and adaptable to current service developments around common or single assessment and referral procedures. • The safety and welfare of the child or young person is paramount (Children Act 2004). • Effective partnership working between agencies and between professionals and parents is essential in promoting children and young people’s welfare and safeguarding them from significant harm. Addressing the needs of young runaways is the responsibility of all agencies.
• Child protection is the responsibility of everyone in the community and all children and young people deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
• Parents, carers or those with parental responsibility should be considered and be informed and involved if this is appropriate and in the best interests of the child. • Children and young people should be enabled to participate fully in the return interview and any subsequent process. Children and young people who run away may be children in need as defined within S17 of the Children Act 1989, and within the Children Act 2004. It is the responsibility of each local authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in their area. In line with the recommendations of the SEU, the Protocol should form part of the Local Authority Audit of Need and Single Plan.
The Protocol aims to be commensurate with developments in terms of the Children Act and Safeguarding Children. Children and Young People’s Services are responsible for assessing whether children might be in need and offering appropriate services. Individual authorities may take varying approaches to which children should be provided with children in need services, depending on locally set priorities and the resources they consider that they have available.
4. Multi-Agency Working It is the responsibility of everyone to ensure the Police are notified if they believe a child or young person has run away from home and they have concerns for that person’s safety and well being. All agencies have duties and responsibilities to respond to child protection concerns in line with LSCB and agency child protection procedures. All agencies have duties to carry out assessment and responsibilities to young runaways. These should be completed in accordance with the Common Assessment Framework, Children in Need (CIN) and South Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board Child Protection Procedures (2007).
Local areas also need to plan for runaways as part of their local preventive strategies (Young Runaways 2002). This reflects the need for all agencies to be working in partnership with families and each other to help prevent situations where young people run away from home. Copies of the current local authority runaways action plans can be found on the local authority websites. When asked why they had chosen to run away, children and young people identified three main factors: • They had had no one to talk to about their problems • They did not know what else to do • Young people and their families are not getting support with problems that might cause them to run.
(Young Runaways 2002).
It is vitally important therefore that agencies work together to address these issues. For example, the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) suggests that Connexions, the Youth Service, Schools Education Welfare Officers and Learning Mentors have an important part to play in affording young people the opportunity to talk about any issues that are concerning them. Furthermore, schools can be an important source of information about the supports available for young people, as can voluntary and community projects and telephone help lines. In addition, the SEU emphasises the need to better target counselling and advice, better information and wider support services on the young people that need most help.
Gaps in preventive services also need to be identified; this has manifested itself with the development of Targeted Youth Support Services for the most vulnerable young people in our society.
5. Roles of Specific Agencies Flowchart for ALL Agencies and for ALL Children and Young People Identify child/young person is missing Police follow own Protocol No Further Action Own/other Agency Service Provision Undertake agency specific/Common Assessment Framework including contact with other agencies and Child Protection List check Contact Police Refer to other agencies as appropriate Please remember the sharing of information is CRUCIAL to ensure the safeguarding of children and young people. 15