Newcastle City Council Logo


Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

1.6.4 Children Missing from Home

RELATED GUIDANCE

Statutory Guidance on Children who run away and go Missing from Home or Care, Department for Education, 2014.

RELATED CHAPTER

Missing Children and Young People, Newcastle Safeguarding Children Board Procedures

AMENDMENT

In March 2017, minor amendments were made to terminology in line with revised local structure. An updated Appendix 1: Newcastle Missing Reporting Processes Flowchart, was added.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Unauthorised Absence
  4. Missing Persons

    Appendix 1: Newcastle Missing Reporting Processes Flowchart


1. Introduction

This procedure and guidance is applicable to all children and young people at home who go absent or missing. Refer to the Responding to Children and Young People who are missing from Placement Procedure regarding the procedure to be adopted for Looked After Children who go missing from placement.

Children and young people who go missing may place themselves and others at risk. The reasons for their absence are both varied and complex and cannot be viewed in isolation from their home circumstances.

Every “missing” episode should therefore attract proper attention from the professionals involved with that young person. Those professionals must ensure a consistent response is given to each missing from care episode.

The safety and welfare of the child or young person is paramount and nothing in this protocol should compromise this aim. However, reporting to the Police should not be an automatic process.

The Police are partners of Children’s Social Care in managing “missing” episodes and it is important that staff in both agencies work together.

This protocol combines aspects of Children’s Social Care and Police procedures in relation to missing persons.


2. Definitions

There are various different terms which are used in relation to missing children.

Statutory Guidance on Children who Run Away or go Missing from Home or Care (January 2014) uses the following definitions:

Missing Child: A child reported as missing to the police by their family or carers.

Missing from Care: A Looked After child who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be (for example school) and their whereabouts are not known.

Away from Placement without Authorisation: A Looked After child whose whereabouts are known but who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the police.

Young Runaway: A child who has run away from their home or care placement, or feels they have been forced or lured to leave.

The Police (Interim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons (2013)) categorise children as either Missing or absent.

Missing: Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests the person may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another.

Absent: A person is not at a place where they are expected or required to be.

The police classification of a person as ‘Missing’ or ‘Absent’ will be based on on-going risk assessment. Note that 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.

Police will not be sent to cases where children / young people are defined as being ‘absent’. Instead the onus will be on parents and carers to take steps to locate the child/young person, with monitoring by the police and escalation to ‘missing’ if there is a change to the circumstances that has increased the level of risk. It is expected that all reasonable steps should be taken by carers to locate the child/young person prior to making a report to the police. Where they remain absent, and the parent or carer feels that they may be at risk of harm, then a report should be made to the police.

Police will attend reports of ‘missing’ children/young people.


3. Unauthorised Absence

This would be a child or young person for whom there are no immediate concerns regarding their safety or welfare, after the agreed risk assessment has been carried out.

Clearly some young people absent themselves for a short period of time and then return: often their whereabouts are known. They are not considered at risk and usually they are testing boundaries. Sometimes young people stay out longer than agreed either on purpose or unwittingly. This kind of boundary testing activity is well within the range of teenage behaviour and should not come within the definition of “missing” for this protocol.


4. Missing Persons

A child or young person who has not returned at the time their carers, reasonably expected them to, and who is immediately vulnerable through age or risk factors.

Clearly some young people absent themselves for a short period of time and then return: often their whereabouts are known. They are not considered at risk and usually they are testing boundaries. Sometimes young people stay out longer than agreed either on purpose or unwittingly. This kind of boundary testing activity is well within the range of teenage behaviour and should not come within the definition of “missing” for this protocol.

Reporting of Absence or Missing Incidents

All episodes of a child or young person being reported as missing or absent from home to the Police will be notified to the Initial Response Service via the Police Daily Log. This will be followed up by a Police CCN in individual cases.

On receipt of Police information regarding absent or missing episodes, the Screening Team will identify whether this is a case open to Children’s Social Care.

If the case is open to Children’s Social Care, the Screening Team will open a contact record and missing return interview record for the allocated team manager and social worker to screen regarding known risks and decide further action. This will include completion of the Missing Return Interview within 72 hours including consideration as to whether this should be undertaken by the Social Worker for Missing Children or SCARPA, consideration of the CSE checklist and Vulnerable Young Person’s checklist and whether a. strategy meeting should be held.

Where a case is not open to Children’s Social Care, the Screening Team will gather relevant information including Early Help Assessment involvement and refer the case to the MASH for decision regarding a strategy meeting and consideration of thresholds for the initiation of a Child and Family Assessment. Where the case is accepted by the MASH for a Child and Family assessment, consideration will be given as to whether the missing return interview is completed by the social worker for missing children or by the allocated worker.

Where the case is not considered to meet the threshold for the initiation of a Child and Family Assessment, the case will be referred to SCARPA to undertake the Missing Return Interview as an independent agency. SCARPA will undertake the Missing Return Interview and provide the outcome of this on a standard template back to IRS. All missing return interviews completed and returned to IRS by SCARPA will be screened by the Duty Manager to consider whether in view of the information from the interview a strategy meeting is required or a Child and Family Assessment is initiated.

What is a ‘Missing Return Interview’?

Statutory guidance states that when a child or young person is missing from home in addition to a Police ‘Safe and Well Check’ arrangements should be made by Children’s Services for a ‘Missing Return Interview’ to be offered and conducted.

What is the purpose of a Missing Return Interview?

The purpose of the Missing Return Interview is:

  • To ensure the child or young person is safe in his or her home or care placement, and to identify any harm they may have suffered prior to, or whilst missing;
  • To discuss any medical condition a child or young person may have, and assess any need for immediate medical attention;
  • To assist the child or young person to identify issues leading to them going missing to reduce/avoid the likelihood of them going missing in future;
  • To explore strategies for improving personal safety and promote safe behaviour if a child or young person remains at risk of going missing in future;
  • To undertake/update a needs and/or risk assessment, and agree/update an Action Plan to address needs and avoid/reduce further missing episodes;
  • To gather information to facilitate finding a child or young person if he or she goes missing in future;
  • To gather intelligence to share with Children’s Social Care and Police as part of a Joint Protocol regarding children and young people missing from home and care.

When should a Missing Return Interview take place?

A missing return interview should take place or be attempted for all missing episodes.

This should take place:

  • Within 72 hours of a child or young person returning from a missing episode, and especially where a child has been missing for 72 hours or more;
  • Where a child or young person has been missing on two or more occasion, and/or where it is believed they have engaged in criminal activity whilst missing;
  • Where a child or young person has known mental health issues;
  • Where a child or young person has been harmed, or is at risk of, or has experienced sexual exploitation whilst missing;
  • Where it is considered a child or young person has been in contact with a person posing a risk of harm to them and/or others.

How should the Missing Return Interview be conducted?

  • The Return Interview should follow the standard format as detailed within Care First electronic case record system, and should be conducted when the child or young person has returned from a missing episode, is settled in a safe, comfortable environment and is ready and willing to talk;
  • The person undertaking the Return Interview should do so in a sensitive manner, and where possible in a neutral environment, and where possible not in the presence of parents or carers;
  • The person conducting the Return Interview should ensure it is consent-based, and fully involves the child or young person;
  • Prior to conducting the Return Interview there should be a clear explanation of the purpose of the interview, and agreement with the child or young person on confidentiality and information-sharing policies with other agencies including Police;
  • Where the child or young person has had consecutive missing episodes, the return interview must clearly record the dates of the missing episodes addressed, as it would be impractical to complete separate interviews in such circumstances. There should be a return interview undertaken within 72 hours of the initial / new missing episode;
  • Where a Return Interview identifies a child or young person with complex needs who remains at risk of going missing, and/or vulnerable and at risk of harm/harmful behaviour then a ‘Vulnerability Check List’ should be completed and consideration about a referral to the Risk Management Group (RMG);
  • Where a Return Interview identifies a child or young person with complex needs who remains at risk of going missing, and/or vulnerable and at risk of child sexual exploitation then a ‘Child sexual exploitation screening tool’ should be completed and consideration of referral should be made to the Risk Management Group (RMG).

    NB: Where there are multiple risks then both tools should be used to assess the risk;
  • In all cases following a Return Interview there should be a commitment by the person conducting the interview to follow up any issues raised by children and young people and provide feedback to the children and young person following this action.

How do we track missing from home and care cases?

  • The Risk Management Group (RMG) is used to review the children who go missing each month. Monthly data will be provided to the RMG by Police. The Police information is used as the basis for identifying the cases;
  • This process will be the first agenda item for the RMG. The RMG will consider missing episodes in the prior month;
  • The criteria to be used to identify cases in the first instance from the police information is:
    • Missing on 2 or more occasions in the previous month;
    • And / or missing for over 24 hours;
    • And /or for over 24 hours.
  • Once the cases which meet this criteria have been identified Service Manager IRS, Police and Area Team will meet with the Quality Standards Officer to identify cases for further scrutiny by RMG taking into account additional information, such as the nature of the missing episodes or other potential risk/vulnerabilities in the case. The additional information will include:
    • Carefirst ID;
    • DOB;
    • Age.
  • Current Status (e.g. Open to CSC, not open to CSC, out of area LAC etc);
  • Current Social Worker (if any);
  • Current Service (if any);
  • Current LAC Placement (if any);
  • CSE Classification (if any);
  • Comment – summary of current involvement and status.

Using this process, cases for further scrutiny by RMG will be identified and the social worker and team manager advised by the RMG administrator of documents required and time slot for the case to be considered at the next available RMG.


Appendix 1: Newcastle Missing Reporting Processes Flowchart

Click here to view, Appendix 1: Newcastle Missing Reporting Processes Flowchart.

End