Making Connections - The Children's Society

Making Connections. Understanding how local agencies can better keep missing children safe .... absent and missing from 2013 APP on missing were in place. Therefore, ...... with local areas to co-design an information sharing arrangement ...
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Making Connections Understanding how local agencies can better keep missing children safe

Making Connections Understanding how local agencies can better keep missing children safe July 2017 By Hannah Chetwynd and Iryna Pona

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Contents

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Glossary 

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Executive summary 

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Key findings 

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Key recommendations 

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Methodology 

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Introduction: the scale of children going missing and policy background 

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Information sharing for risk assessments 

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Sharing information from return home interviews 

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Increased risks facing children missing from out-of-area placements 

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Conclusion 

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Recommendations 

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References 

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Making Connections Understanding how local agencies can better keep missing children safe

Glossary

APPG – All Party Parliamentary Group APP – College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice ADCS – Association of Directors of Children’s Services COMPACT – A case management system used by the police to manage the investigation of missing persons cases CSE – Child Sexual Exploitation DfE – Department for Education FOI – Freedom of Information LSCB – Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards NCA – National Crime Agency NPCC – National Police Chiefs Council ONS – Office for National Statistics RHI – Return home interview RMFHC – Runaway and Missing from Home and Care

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Making Connections Understanding how local agencies can better keep missing children safe

Executive summary

When children go missing it is a sign that things are not well in their lives. They may be running away from neglect at home, and there is a risk that they may be hurt or exploited whilst missing. The reported number of missing children is rising year on year, and in 2015/16 police forces across England and Wales recorded 148,050 incidents of children and young people missing from home or care, with many running away repeatedly.1 Police and children’s services must work better together to protect children who go missing. The last decade has witnessed a considerable shift in understanding the vulnerability of children missing from home or care, largely driven by the introduction of a statutory duty for return home interviews (RHIs). Additionally, we have a better knowledge of the links between going missing and child sexual exploitation (CSE), and a greater focus on children missing from care.2 Encouragingly, in many areas improvements in practice have followed improvements in understanding (see timeline on page 10–11). Yet progress has not been consistent across all geographical areas and all agencies with responsibilities for missing children. The need to improve the use of the resources available

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to the police and social services has contributed to local practices and national policy changes. This includes the introduction of separate ‘missing’ and ‘absent’ categories3 (see Box A) that resulted in some children being left without the adequate response (sometimes for unacceptably long periods of time) and becoming at high risk of abuse or exploitation. Previous research identified that inappropriate initial and ongoing risk assessment when a child is reported as missing4, poor information sharing between the police and children’s services5, and lack of opportunities for children to share their experiences and worries with an independent professional through the return interview6 are all areas in need of improvement. For children looked after by local authorities, being placed out-of-area creates additional barriers to getting a timely and appropriate response when they go missing. The findings presented in this research confirm that these issues remain key. We