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4.11.1 Children who have Gone Missing from Home or Care - Local Safeguarding Children Board Policy, Procedures and Guidance Notes

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended in Section 12: Safeguarding Children Missing from Education as the DfE has updated its Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities: Children Missing Education (September 2016) resulting from changes in the The Education (Pupil Registration (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2016 after concerns raised about the numbers of children missing education who may be at risk.


Contents

Section 1: Legislation and Statutory Guidance
Section 2: Working Together - Interagency Protocol
Section 3: Definitions
Section 4: Why Children Runaway - Push and Pull Factors
Section 5: Safeguarding Young Runaways
Section 6: Information Sharing
Section 7: Police Safe and Well Checks - Missing from Home or Care
Section 8: Welfare Return Interviews - Runaways from Home or Care
Section 9: Interagency Meeting - Missing from Home or Care
Section 10: Procedures for Managing Children - Missing from Home
Section 11: Procedures for Managing Children - Missing from Care
Section 12: Safeguarding Children Missing from Education
Section 13: Safeguarding Missing Families
Section 14: Safeguarding Children Missing from Other Local Authorities


Section 1: Legislation and Statutory Guidance

1.1

The Government issued revised Statutory Guidance on Children who Runaway or go Missing from Home or Care in January 2014.

See also: ACPO Interim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons (March 2013).


Section 2: Working Together - Interagency Protocol

2.1 In line with Statutory Guidance, a joint protocol has been previously agreed by the Solihull Local Safeguarding Children Board. This protocol sets out the shared principles and commitments we make as a multi-agency children’s workforce to meet the needs of children who go missing or who runaway from home and care. This protocol can be found at Appendix E:  Missing Children and Young Runaways - Inter Agency Protocol.
2.2 Each Local Authority has a named lead officer for children who run away or going missing from home or care in Solihull this is Head of Youth Services.

2.3

Principles

 

A key focus of work under the joint protocol and these procedures is prevention and early intervention. Our aim is to:

  • Work within multi-agency partnerships to respond in a proportionate and timely way when children do go missing from home or care in order to locate them and return them to a place of safety as soon as possible;
  • Seek the wishes and feelings of children and take them into consideration when assessing their needs;
  • Provide information and support to children to give them options other than running away;
  • Involve all agencies to support the Local Authority as corporate parents to looked after children and to promote working together in recognition that running away and being missing from care impacts not only on the safety of a child but on their wider health and well-being;
  • Identify children who are likely to go missing at the point of their admission to care or of a change of placement and take action to reduce the risk;
  • Co-operate  across agencies to reduce repeat incidents of going missing and to address patterns and trends of individuals and groups;
  • Collate data with the Police and other partner agencies to inform, evaluate and develop services for children who go missing from care;
  • Share information between the Local Authority, the Police and other agencies in order that intelligence is collated and analysed, used to develop prevention strategies and monitored by LSCB and partner agencies.


Section 3: Definitions

3.1

For the purposes of this procedure, a child is ‘missing’ if they are missing and their whereabouts is unknown. Where a child is found to be missing it will be important to establish whether they are believed to have runaway, gone out/stayed out without permission or been forcibly removed. In either case locating their whereabouts is the primary concern for all. There are different procedures for children who have been missing and identified as runaways from home and care. These are detailed in the following sections:

Section 10: Procedures for Managing Children - Missing from Home

Section 11: Procedures for Managing Children - Missing from Care
3.2

There are a number of issues and factors that are the same for children missing from home or care, these are outlined in the following sections: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

The terms below are used throughout this document with the following definitions:

  • Child: anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. ‘Children’ therefore means ‘children and young people’ throughout this guidance;
  • Young runaway: a child who has run away from their home or care placement, or feels they have been forced or lured to leave;
  • Missing child: a child reported as missing to the police by their family or carers;
  • Looked after child: 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;
  • Missing from care: a looked after child who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be (e.g. school) and their whereabouts is not known;
  • Away from placement without authorisation: a looked after child whose whereabouts is known but who is not at their placement or place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the police.

3.3

Police Definition: Missing or absent?

Missing Definition: 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 Definition: A person not at a place where they are expected or required to be any incident classified initially as an absence may be reclassified as missing at any time if information is received that changed the initial assessment.

Guidance on our police forces should apply these definitions was issued in ACPO Interim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons 2013. In summary the police will prioritise all incidents of children categorised as ‘missing’ from home or care as medium or high risk. Where a child is categorised as ‘absent’, the details will be recorded by the police, who will also agree review times and any on-going actions with child’s family, carer or responsible local authority.

A missing child incident would be prioritised as ‘high risk’ where:

  • The risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the child is in danger through their own vulnerability; or
  • The child may have been the victim of a serious crime; or
  • The risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the public is in danger.

The high risk category requires the immediate deployment of police resources. Police guidance makes clear that a member of the senior management team or similar command level must be involved in the examination of initial enquiry lines and approval of appropriate staffing levels. Such cases should lead to the appointment of an Investigating Officer and possibly a Senior Investigating Officer and a Police Search Advisor (PolSA). There should be a media strategy and / or close contact with outside agencies. Family support should be put in place. The UK Missing Persons Bureau should be notified of the case immediately. CEOP and local authority children’s services should also be notified.

A missing child incident would be prioritised as ‘medium risk’ where the risk posed is likely to place the subject in danger or they are a threat to themselves or others. This category requires an active and measured response by police and other agencies in order to trace the missing person and support the person reporting. This will involve a proactive investigation and search in accordance with the circumstances to locate the missing child as soon as possible.

Where a child is categorised as ‘absent’ within the police definition, the details will be recorded by the police. Review timings and any on-going actions will be agreed as set out in the RMFCH protocol. The case will remain the subject of constant review, particularly in the light of new information and changes in circumstances.

(See also the College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice Website for morning on Missing Persons.)

3.4

Abduction/Forcible Removal

If the child is missing and there is no reason, past or present to suggest they may have runaway or where there is reason to believe the child has been forcibly removed the matter should be reported immediately to the Police as a crime and the Police will consider what criminal intervention is appropriate through Child Abduction legislation.


Section 4: Why Children Runaway - Push and Pull Factors

4.1 Children runaway from home or Local Authority care placements for a variety reasons. Government guidance describes a number of “push/pull factors” that may impact on a child running away. Research also tells us that often children received into Local Authority care already have experience of running away from home. It is important that where a child is missing from Home or Care that an assessment is undertaken that identifies the reasons (Push or Pull factors) and the likelihood of a child running away or going missing again. This assessment should consider the history for the individual as well as any presenting push or pull factors.
4.2

Research shows that Push and Pull factors include:

  • Wanting to spend time with friends or family members when this has not been agreed with a parent/carer;
  • Arguments with parents or carers;
  • Conflict with peers at school or in the community;
  • Bullying and abuse;
  • Grooming by adults for sexual exploitation or child trafficking;
  • Peer group pressure from others;
  • Feeling they are not being listened to or involved in their life.


Section 5: Safeguarding Young Runaways

5.1

Whenever a child goes missing, it is also important to recognise this as a possible indicator of other forms of harm and vulnerability. In particular concerns relating to Sexual Exploitation, Trafficking, Bullying and Organised/Institutional Abuse. These are specific and often specialised areas of safeguarding and the additional procedures and guidance which relate to these issues should be read in conjunction with this section and the issues taken into consideration to ensure there is a holistic assessment in place to inform the needs of the child’s care planning.

See:


Section 6: Information Sharing

6.1

Information should be shared between agencies on a ‘need to know’ basis supporting their role and level of responsibility for safeguarding the child’s welfare.  Where a person is undertaking a Welfare Return Interview or an assessment of need, information should be shared to enable the professional to respond appropriately and to gather information on any events likely to influence the child to runaway.

See Information Sharing and Confidentiality Protocol.

Early and effective sharing of information between professionals and local agencies is essential for the identification of patterns of behaviour. Relevant data may include times and duration of missing episodes, information from return interviews, absence data from schools, etc. This may be analysed to identify areas of concern for an individual child, or to identify ‘hotspots’ of activity in a local area. This will help authorities to identify risks in their area, such as exploitation, gangs or crime related activity that might not be apparent. It will also help identify trends, for example, whether children are going missing from a particular children’s home or other patterns across the local authority.

Data and analysis of children who go missing both from home and from care should be included in regular reports to council members, especially to the lead.


Section 7: Police Safe and Well Checks - Missing from Home or Care

7.1

Where a child who has been reported as missing to the Police is subsequently located, the Police will conduct an interview with the child (“a Safe and Well Check”). The purpose of this is:

  • To check for any indications that the child has suffered harm;
  • To check where the child has been, and with whom; and
  • To give the child an opportunity to disclose any offending against or by them;
  • Confirm to parents and child the referral to be made for a Welfare Return Interview.
7.2 Where a child has been missing from home a Safe and Well visit to see the child on their return must always be undertaken by the police.
7.3 It is important to note that frequent missing episodes are not in themselves a reasonable reason for Police not to undertake a Safe and Well Check. Children who frequently go missing are equally vulnerable each time they go missing and in some cases their risky behaviours and vulnerability increase with a false sense of ‘street wise security’ that children can develop or are perceived to develop.
7.4 Where a child goes missing frequently, it may not be practicable to arrange a Safe and Well Check every time they return. In this situation the Police, in consultation with the parent/carer and/or social worker, will make a decision about the need for a Safe and Well Check. With regards to the frequency of such checks bearing in mind the established link between frequent missing home episodes and serious harm, which could include gang involvement, force marriage, bullying or sexual exploitation the reason for a decision not to conduct a self and well check should be reported on the case file. This decision will be based on the value to the child and purpose of the visit as set out above.
7.5 If the Police Safe and Well Check identifies that the child has suffered Significant Harm, the Police Officer will notify the allocated social worker or the Emergency Duty Team and a Strategy Discussion will be held in line with safeguarding procedure - see Strategy Discussions Procedure.


Section 8: Welfare Return Interviews - Runaways from Home or Care

8.1 When a child is found, they must be offered an independent return interview. Independent return interviews provide an opportunity to uncover information that can help protect children from the risk of going missing again, from risks they may have been exposed to while missing or from risk factors in their home.
8.2 The interview should be carried out within 72 hours of the child returning to their home or care setting. This should be an in-depth interview and is normally best carried out by an independent person (i.e. someone not involved in caring for the child) who is trained to carry out these interviews and is able to follow-up any actions that emerge. Children sometimes need to build up trust with a person before they will discuss in depth the reasons why they ran away.
8.3

The purpose of the Welfare Return Interview to:

  • Identify and deal with any harm the child has suffered - including harm that might not have already been disclosed as part of the ‘safe and well check’ - either before they ran away or whilst missing; giving consideration for the need for a medical assessment and/or treatment;
  • Understand and try to address the reasons why the child ran away;
  • Help the child feel safe and understand that they have options to prevent repeat instances of them running away;
  • Provide them with information on how to stay safe if they choose to run away again, including helpline numbers.
8.4

The interview should be held in a neutral place where the child feels safe. The interview provides an opportunity to hear from the child about why they went missing and to understand the risks and issues faced by the child while missing. This could include exploring issues where a child:

  • Has been reported missing on two or more occasions;
  • Is frequently away from placement (or their home) without authorisation;
  • Has been hurt or harmed while they have been missing;
  • Is at known or suspected risk of involvement in criminal activity or drugs;
  • Has contact with people posing risk to children; and/or
  • Has been engaged (or believed to have engaged) in criminal activities while missing.
8.5

The assessment of whether a child might run away again should be based on information about:

  • Their individual circumstances, including family cirumstances;
  • Their motivation for running away;
  • Their potential destinations and associates;
  • Their recent pattern of absences;
  • The circumstances in which the child was found or returned; and
  • Their individual characteristics and risk factors such as whether a child has learning difficulties, mental health issues, depression and other vulnerabilities.
8.6

Following the safe and well check and independent welfare return interview, Local Authority Children’s Services, Police and voluntary services should work together:

  • To build up a comprehensive picture of why the child went missing;
  • To understand what happened while they were missing;
  • To understand who they were with when they were missing and where they were found; and
  • What support they require upon returning to home or their care placement in accordance with the “Working Together” guidance.
8.7 Safe and well checks and independent welfare return interviews provide an opportunity to inform case planning, for wider strategic planning and for professionals to take into account children’s views. The outcomes of the checks and interviews should therefore be recorded on case files so that they can be shared with professionals.
8.8 Where children refuse to engage with the independent interviewer, parents and carers should be offered the opportunity to provide any relevant information and intelligence of which they may be aware. This should help to prevent further instances of the child running away and identify early the support needed for them.
8.9 When children missing from home are located but have not been reported missing to the Police by their families, parents and carers should be encouraged to report any future episodes of running away. This may require particular work in some communities, for example, those with high levels of gang crime. Local Authorities should pro-actively consider investigating further to identify early any safeguarding concerns, or whether the child and their family need further support.
8.10

Welfare Return Interviews should be arranged as soon as possible after the child has returned home or to the placement and within 72 hours of their return. The Welfare Return Interview should be carried out by someone independent of the parent/carer and someone not involved in the care of the child. They need to have the necessary skills and knowledge to

  • Communicate with children;
  • Identify the vulnerabilities and risks facing young runaways; and
  • Able to take appropriate action to promote welfare of the child, and address/reduce the likelihood of further runaway incidents. 
8.11

It is important to offer a Welfare Return Interview each time a child returns from a missing episode, or where they frequently go missing to offer regular new interviews. It is particularly important to arrange a Welfare Return Interview if:

  • The child has been missing for more than 24 hours;
  • The child’s absence is thought to be related to issues in their placement;
  • The child is thought to be at risk of sexual exploitation or trafficking.
8.12

The Welfare Return Interview Record can be found at Appendix D: Welfare Return Interview Record. This should be completed following the referral received from the Police by Children Social Work Services. Following receipt of this referral, Children Social Work Service will forward this to:

  • Youth Worker where referral is made to Youth Services (children not know to Children Social Work Services aged 12 and above);
  • Family Support Worker where referral is received in Children Social Work Services;
  • Social Worker or Support Worker (not directly involved in the child’s case) where the child is an open case to children’s social work services.
8.13

When the Welfare Return Interview has been completed, there will be two outcome forms completed. One is the Record of Interview (Welfare Return Interview Part One) and is child specific. This will record any information to be shared with other professionals that needs to be taken into account in the daily care arrangement and the care planning for the child. A copy of this form should be given to the child and parent(s)/ carers(s) and where the child is looked after a copy should be given to the carer and the child’s social worker.

The second is a data record (Welfare Return Interview Part Two) and data collated should be anonymised. This form is used to collate data from all welfare return interviews and informs the need for development of services. A copy of this form should be sent to the administrator who collates this data on behalf of the Head of Youth Services.
8.14

Welfare Return Interview Outcomes:

Based on the information obtained during the welfare return interview the worker should consider directing the child to appropriate support services or community activities. Consideration should also be given to completing a further assessment of need.

Where there is any concern regarding Sexual Exploitation or Trafficking identified a separate assessment of risk and need should be completed and the appropriate section of these procedures followed. (See Child Sexual Exploitation Procedure).

Where the Welfare Return Interview identifies a child has been or is at risk of suffering significant harm a referral should be made to Children’s Social Work in line with the Referral or Children Social Worker Services.

For cases already open to Children’s Social Work Services, the following should be considered by the Social Worker:

  • If the incident has resulted in the child suffering Significant Harm linked to a carer or another child in the placement and changes to the existing Care Plan are required it will be necessary for arrange an early Looked After Review;
  • If the child persistently goes missing it may be appropriate to arrange a missing person’s interagency meeting;
  • If they have been identified at risk of sexual exploitation or trafficking then the LSCB Procedures for these specific areas of risk should be read and followed - see Trafficked Children Procedure;
  • The Prevention and Action Plan (see Admission to Placement and Prevention and Action Plans) must be updated regularly taking into account information obtained from Police Safe and Well Checks and from Welfare Return Interviews;
  • In all circumstances the social worker must provide the named Independent Reviewing Officer with information of all missing from care incidents and a summary of the information obtained from the welfare return interviews at each Looked After Review.


Section 9: Interagency Meeting - Missing from Home or Care

9.1 If a child remains missing for 72 hours, the Police must notify the Local Authority Duty Assessment & Referral Team and/or the allocated social worker. An allocated social worker will ensure that an interagency meeting is held to share information and co-ordinate the action plan to locate the child. A Team Manager or an Assistant Team Manager (ATM) from the Children’s Social Work Team should chair the meeting. However, where there are additional and complex factors of risk such as sexual exploitation or trafficking, or a group of children going missing together repeatedly, discussions should be held with the Child Protection and Review Unit and their advice and assistance requested in attending and/or chairing the meeting under the most appropriate procedure e.g. Organised Abuse procedures.
9.2 The interagency meeting must be held within 3 working days of the child having been identified as missing for 72 hours, i.e. within 6 days of the child going missing. If the child returns from the missing episode before the meeting is held, the meeting should not be cancelled and instead the child invited to attend and the meeting used to review or develop the Prevention and Action Plan.
9.3 If two or more children have gone missing together from their home or placement(s), then the responsible social workers for all the children should liaise with the placement provider/s and consider whether to arrange a joint missing persons’ interagency meeting to address the needs of all the missing children. Unless there is a specific reason as to why this joint meeting should not or cannot take place, then this should be considered as the most appropriate way to ensure a holistic picture is obtained, minimise duplication and ensure a plan of action is timely and co-ordinated.  In so doing, careful consideration should be given to the issue of confidentiality, information should be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis and should be relevant to the missing incident(s). A separate individual record of the meeting and a separate action plan must be drawn up for each child.  NB where parents are involved in such meetings, arrangements will need to be made to manage confidentiality issues for each child.

9.4

Persistent and High Risk

  9.4.1 Where a child persistently goes missing from home or care and they are deemed to be at high risk of harm or pose significant risk to others (this includes encouraging/pressurising other children to go missing) then an interagency meeting should also be arranged and reviewed at regular intervals until such time that their persistence declines and the risk they pose is reduced and managed. For those at risk of harm via child sexual exploitation, the interagency meeting may be a MASE meeting or if the child has a Child Protection Plan, a core group.
  9.4.2

Children who repeatedly go missing should not be viewed as displaying a normal pattern of behaviour. For example, repeat episodes of a child going missing can indicate sexual exploitation. In addition to strategies and issues already highlighted, the following should also be considered when dealing with this specific group.

  • If a child has run away two or more times, Local Authorities should ensure a discussion is held, either with the child, their family or both, to offer further support and guidance. Actions following earlier incidents should be reviewed and alternative strategies considered. Access to and timeliness of independent return interviews should also be reviewed;
  • There may be local organisations in the area that can provide repeat runways with an opportunity to talk about their reasons for running away, and can link runaways and their families with longer term help if appropriate. They may also be able to provide support to children while they are away from home or care. Local Authorities should work with organisations that provide these services in their area.

9.5

Purpose and Process of the Interagency Meeting

  9.5.1 The meeting should ensure there is appropriate information sharing and co-ordination between the Police missing person’s investigation, the actions of the Local Authority and care provider if the child is ‘looked after’ to locate the child as well as engagement with parents.
  9.5.2 The missing person’s interagency meeting will set out a plan of action to locate the child and steps to be taken once they are located. This plan will identify tasks, allocate responsibility for tasks to specific individuals, set timescales for agreed actions and set a review date.
  9.5.3

Who should be invited to contribute?

Although it will be a priority to discuss and plan how a missing child can be located and returned to a safe place, it is important to think about the impact the missing incident/s is having on the child’s health, education and general well being. It is important therefore to consider inviting those who have a role not only in locating a missing child but also in supporting the child upon their return. Consideration should be given to inviting the following:

  • Children’s Social Work Services:

    Social worker; residential worker/foster carer; any other person undertaking direct work, e.g. Family Solutions;
  • Police:

    Missing Persons Officer; Vulnerable Persons Offices/Young Persons   Officer or the Neighbourhood Officer;
  • Education:

    Representative from the School/Education Welfare Service and Child in Care Education Support Service;
  • Health:

    A person with responsibility for managing and/or supporting the child’s health. This is particularly important where there are concerns about the child’s medical health, sexual health or mental health, etc;
  • Support Agencies:

    Any other professional who may have significant information or involvement in the Recovery or Prevention and Action Plan, e.g. voluntary sector agencies or Youth Services;
  • The child’s family

    Person with Parental Responsibility; family member likely to have relevant information and/or have a role in the recovery plan; specific family member whose involvement is in the interests of the child.  It is particularly important to invite the family if the child is accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989;
  • LSCB CSE Coordinator.

9.6

Structure of the Meeting

  9.6.1

The chair must ensure the following issues are considered and, where necessary, agreed actions set, which are recorded:

  • Outline a plan of action to locate and recover the child;
  • Outline what action should be taken once the child is located;
  • Identify who and how the Welfare Return Interview will be undertaken;
  • In cases where the information indicates that there has been a direct allegation against or issue of concern identified relating to the responsible carer, consider what action should be taken in respect of the missing child and any other children currently in the care of that person;
  • Identify and address any concerns relating to any other child known to the subject child, i.e. pressure to runaway and join the subject, threat or risk to a child who provides information about the missing person;
  • Consider any issues relating to involvement of the media. The Police are responsible for deciding whether media involvement will assist or hamper missing person enquiries. However, a decision to use the media will only be made after consultation with the parents and the Local Authority. Where media publicity is required, any statement made between agencies will normally be agreed between the Police and Local Authority press officers.
  9.6.2 Where a child’s identity is to be publicised through the media, authorisation must be sought from the Head of Service and every effort will be made to discuss and inform those holding Parental Responsibility.

9.7

Engagement with the National Missing Person Bureau

  9.7.1 For cases that have been notified to the National Missing Person Bureau, the Local Authority will provide a record of the discussion and the agreed action points. These will clearly identify those responsible for tasks, timescales and a review date. 


Section 10: Procedures for Managing Children - Missing from Home

10.1 Definition of Missing from Home
10.2 Initial Response to a Missing Child Referral/Notification
10.3 Assessment of Risk and Need
10.4 Police Referral to Children’s Social Work
10.5 Children Social Work Referrals to Youth Service
10.6 Children Missing for 72 hours or More
10.7 Police Safe and Well Check
10.8 Welfare Return Interview
10.9 Emergency Accommodation

10.1

Definition of Missing from Home

In this procedure the term ‘Missing’ refers to children up to the age of 18 years who have runaway from home or have been forced to leave or whose whereabouts are unknown.
  10.1.1 In this procedure the term ‘home’ refers to children who are resident in the community with their parent or guardian, including a child in a Private Fostering arrangement.

10.2

Initial Response to a Missing Child Referral/Notification

The Police have a responsibility to safeguard the young and vulnerable and a duty to protect life and investigate crime. Therefore where a child is missing from home the Police will act as the lead agency for investigation into the child’s whereabouts.
  10.2.1 Where a child is missing from home the parent is responsible for making a referral to the Police. Where a child missing from home is reported to or comes to the attention of any other agency that agency will check that the parents have also informed the Police.  If they have any doubt about the parents willingness or ability to report the child as missing they will encourage and support the parents to make the necessary report and check with Police that a referral has been made.
  10.2.2 In any circumstances where a parent refuses to make a referral to the Police the agency should make a referral to the Police themselves advising the parent of their intention to do so.  Where Police receive a referral from an agency due to a parent’s unwillingness or inability to refer they will take this fact into consideration in their investigation when assessing the needs of the child following the safe and well return interview.
  10.2.3 As part of their investigation, the Police will undertake a check via Duty Assessment & Referral Team with Children’s Social Work to identify any known historical or current concerns to support the Police in their investigation into the child’s whereabouts. The purpose of sharing all available information held by Children’s Social Work Services is to aid the Police Missing Child enquiries. The contact will be recorded by Children’s Social Work Services as a request for information.
  10.2.4 Where the report of a missing child is received by Police out of normal office hours, the Police will undertake checks for information held by Children’s Social Work with EDT. Where Children’s Social Work Service input is required, the EDT worker will take on the responsibilities of the social worker until such time that they are able to hand-over to day-time staff.
  10.2.5

If on completion of the checks with Children’s Social Work the child is identified as an open case, the responsible social worker will be notified immediately and they will then work in partnership with the Police to support the investigation to locate the child where they are still missing. Once the child is located the responsible social worker will undertake the following tasks:

  • Undertake the Welfare Return Interview (see Section 10.8 for details);
  • Update any existing assessment of need and/or plan for Support, Protection or Accommodation.
  10.2.6 Where the checks with Children’s Social Care identify a child who is the subject of a current Section 47 enquiry the responsible social worker will arrange a strategy meeting with Police and other relevant agencies in order to update the Section 47 enquiry and agree further steps to support the Police investigation to locate the missing child and plan for action to be undertaken within the Section 47 enquiry once the child has been located.
  10.2.7

Where the checks with Children’s Social Care identify a child is the subject of an existing Child Protection Plan, once notified the allocated social worker will:

  • Notify all members of the core group;
  • Notify all Local Authority areas of the missing child;
  • Notify the Independent Reviewing Officer who will consider the need to arrange an early Child Protection Review Conference;
  • Notify the responsible Team Manager and Head of Service; and
  • Consider, and review the need to notify all Local Authority areas of the missing child.

10.3

Assessment of Risk and Need

  10.3.1 Running away from home should be seen as an indicator of underlying problems which may need further intervention. The child may be a child in need and an assessment is likely to be needed. A range of assessment process and tools exist Social Work Assessment, child sexual exploitation risk assessment and Section 47. The appropriate process will be dependent on the circumstances of the case.
  10.3.2 The Police will undertake a risk assessment upon receiving a referral of a missing child. This assessment will identify each missing episode as High, Medium or Low Risk and the Police investigation that follows will be managed in line with West Midlands Police procedures and National Police Chief’s Council guidance for investigation into a missing person. All reports of missing will be subject to an initial and ongoing risk assessment. When classified as Missing a secondary risk assessment is conducted as a result of an officer being deployed to take a missing person report. Using all the information available, the officer will determine the level of risk of danger to the missing person, which in turn informs the extent and urgency of the enquiries to be made. The level of risk must be reviewed by a Supervisor and revisited regularly to ensure that it is still appropriate in light of information received during the investigation.
  10.3.3 Once a missing child is located the Police will undertake a Safe and Well check. (See Section 7: Police Safe and Well Checks - Missing from Home or Care). This check will support the Police to identify the presenting needs of the child and importantly enable them to confirm whether the child is at risk of going missing again.
  10.3.4 All reports of absent will be subject to an initial and ongoing risk assessment. WMP will make an initial assessment of whether the person is to be considered absent based on the information provided by the caller. A series of Risk Based questions will be asked on each occasion. The incident will then be referred to the Duty Inspector who will ensure the incident has been classified correctly and determine the appropriate response. In cases of repeat incidents, consider any fast track actions which could assist in the speedy location of the person.
  10.3.5 It will be necessary for Police to differentiate between a child who went missing and one who ran away or who was forced to leave because of ‘push’ or ‘pull’ factors. The distinction is necessary in order to provide the child and family with an appropriate and proportionate response. Where Police believe that a child has runaway or been forced to leave because of ‘push’ or ‘pull’ factors they will make a referral to the appropriate agency in order for a Welfare Return Interview to be completed. A significant factor informing this judgement will be whether there presents a likelihood that the child will go missing again. Incidents graded as absent will not require an officer to be deployed to take a report but must have regular defined review periods relevant to the circumstances of each particular case. Agreement may be reached about enquiries the informant can make during that period. Absences must be subject to ongoing risk assessment. New information received or lack of contact with the person could indicate that the incident should be upgraded to a missing person investigation. Missing incidents will require the deployment of an officer to take a full missing person report. A thorough investigation of the circumstances must be undertaken and recorded in all cases.

10.4

Police Referral to Children’s Social Work

  10.4.1

Where a child is missing from home in any of the following circumstances a referral will be made to Children’s Social Work by the police:

  • Where the Police investigation or Safe and Well check identifies a child has or is likely to suffer significant harm (including concern of sexual exploitation);
  • Where police identify additional vulnerabilities in the parent or child such as presenting Mental Heath Issues or Learning difficulties that require further assessment to determine the causes of the missing episode, the needs of the child and/ or the parents ability to meet their child’s needs;
  • Where the child is considered to be at risk of child sexual exploitation;
  • Any child who remains missing for more than 72 hours;
  • Any child aged 11 yrs or under who is identified as having runaway from home;
  • A child who repeatedly runs away  (3 or more episodes)
  10.4.2 On receipt of a referral, Children’s Social Work will decide if an inter-agency meeting should be convened and undertake the Welfare Return Interview and will consider what further action, if any, might be appropriate. Options to be considered include; undertaking a Single Social Work Assessment, Initiating Section 47 enquiries and referral for support services, a Child In Need Plan, or referral to Early Help/Youth Services.

10.5

Children Social Work Referrals to Youth Service

  10.5.1 Where a missing person aged 12 yrs or above has been identified by police as a child who has runaway from home but who does not fall into the criteria for referral to Children’s Social Work the police will refer to Children Social Work Service who will immediately refer this onto the Youth Service.
  10.5.2 The Youth Service will undertake the Welfare Return Interview within 72 hours.
  10.5.3 Where information gathered from the welfare return interview identifies a child has suffered or may be at risk of suffering significant harm a referral will be made to Children’s Social Work Services.

10.6

Children Missing for 72 Hours or More

  10.6.1 If a child has been missing for 72 hours the police will refer the case to Children Social Work services. Upon receipt of such a referral, consideration must be given as to whether there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. If this is agreed to be the case then a strategy meeting should be held in line with procedures for S47 child protection enquiries.
  10.6.2 Where the threshold for Section 47 enquires is not considered to be met then Children’s Social Work Services should arrange a Missing Child Interagency meeting. See Section 9: Interagency Meeting - Missing from Home or Care.

10.7

Police Safe and Well Check

  10.7.1 It is essential that all children who have runaway from home receive a Safe and Well check, which will be undertaken by the Police. This visit to the child should be undertaken as soon as possible after the child has returned home or been located.
  10.7.2 The purpose of this visit is to check for any indications that the child has suffered harm; discover where they have been staying and with whom; and to give them an opportunity to disclose any offending against, or by, them. See see Section 7: Police Safe and Well Checks - Missing from Home or Care.

10.8

Welfare Return Interview

  10.8.1 Where a child has been identified as a runaway then Welfare Return Interview must be offered to the child.
  10.8.2 Either Children Social Work Services or Youth Services will undertake this interview in response to the Police referral. See Section 8: Welfare Return Interviews - Runaways from Home or Care.

10.9

Emergency Accommodation

  10.9.1 When a child who has run away from home is located, it is sometimes impossible or inappropriate to return them home immediately. This might apply, for example, when the child refuses to return home, or there are concerns about their safety at home, or they have been located a long distance from their home town or city.
  10.9.2 Emergency accommodation for a young runaway may be required at any time of the day and on any day of the year and it is important that accommodation provision is available to meet the needs of the child and not the limitations of the service. If the child has been located by the police, they should not be left at the Police Station for any longer than is necessary: a police station is not an appropriate place to accommodate a child.
  10.9.3 If the child is unable to return home, Police should contact Children’s Social Work or Emergency Duty Team (EDT) Services. Enquires should then be undertaken as to the availability of appropriate support in the family and friends network and an assessment as to whether they are children in need of accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act 1989. This applies to all children under the age of 18.
  10.9.4 Where a Social Work Assessment concludes that the child is in need of Local Authority accommodation authorisation for this will need to be obtained from the responsible Head of Service. Where this is out of hours the EDT worker will be able to seek authorisation of the on call EDT manager.
  10.9.5 It is important that emergency accommodation can be accessed directly at any time of the day or the night. Bed and Breakfast (B&B) accommodation is not considered suitable for any child under the age of 18 even on an emergency accommodation basis.
  10.9.6 The Police have powers to take immediate action to protect a child. Should it be necessary to take the child into Police Protection, the child must be moved as soon as possible into Local Authority accommodation. The Local Authority should consider what type of accommodation is appropriate in each individual case. It is important that children are not placed in accommodation that leaves them vulnerable to exploitation or trafficking.
  10.9.7

16 and 17 year olds

When a 16 or 17 year old runs away or goes missing they are no less vulnerable than younger children and are equally at risk, particularly of sexual exploitation or involvement with gangs. A 16 or 17 year old who has run away may present as homeless. In this case, Local Authority Children’s Services must assess their needs as for any other child. Where this assessment indicates that the child is as child in need and requires accommodation under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, they will become looked after.
  10.9.8

The accommodation provided must be suitable, risk assessed and meet the full range of a child’s needs. Sustainability of the placement must be considered. Children who have run away and are at risk of homelessness may be placed in supported accommodation. For example, the accommodation may include provision of specialist support for those who have been sexually exploited.

Local Authorities should have regard to statutory guidance issued in April 2010 to Children’s Services authorities and Local Housing authorities about their duties under Part 3 of the Children’s Act 1989 and Part 7 of the Housing Act 1996 to secure or provide accommodation for homeless 16 and 17 year olds.


Section 11: Procedures for Managing Children - Missing from Care

11.1 Definition of Looked After Children
11.2 Associated Law, Guidance and National Minimum Standards
11.3 Definitions of Missing from Care
11.4 Admission to Placement - Prevention and Action Plans
11.5 When a Child Goes Missing
11.6 Missing Child - Police Investigations
11.7 When the Child is Located
11.8 Child’s Return to the Placement

11.1

Definition of Looked After Children

  11.1.1 A child is in care if they are being looked after by the Local Authority. The Children Act 1989 sets out a range of circumstances where a child is in the care of the Local Authority. These are by voluntary agreement with their parents or abandonment by a parent under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, by virtue of there being a Care Order in place under Section 31 or Section 38 or by the child having been removed on an emergency basis under Section 44. A child may be subject to a Care Order and in care of the Local Authority but placed at home with parents under Placement with Parents Regulations. In all these situations, a child/ is in the care of the Local Authority and this procedure will apply where the child goes missing.
  11.1.2 It is therefore important that any carer providing care on behalf of the Local Authority is informed of this procedure by the social worker responsible for placing the child and subsequently by the Independent Reviewing Officer responsible for the child’s’s care planning.

11.2

Associated Law, Guidance and National Minimum Standards

  • The Children’s Home Regulations 2001, Reg. 16(4);
  • The Fostering Services Regulations 2002, Reg. 13(3);
  • The Children Act 1989 Section 50;
  • National Minimum Standards for Children’s Homes, Standard 19;
  • National Minimum Standards for Fostering Services, Standard 9;
  • Care Planning 2010.

11.3

Definitions of Missing from Care

  11.3.1 The following definitions describe the different circumstances in which a child may be missing from care. Responses to a missing child need to be made according to the needs of the child and case scenario. So it is important to read and understand these different scenarios and follow the correct procedure accordingly.
  11.3.2

Unauthorised Absence

At times children may test or challenge boundaries by staying out longer than has been agreed or going somewhere they have not been given permission to go. This is within the range of recognised teenage behaviour. Where a looked after child has failed to return to their care placement but their whereabouts are known, or are thought to be known but unconfirmed, they may be considered to be absent without authority i.e. An Unauthorised Absence.

These absences must be managed by the responsible care provider in conjunction with the child’s social worker and they must be carefully monitored. Direct contact must be made with the child and an agreement made for them to return to their placement as soon as possible.
  11.3.3

Unauthorised Absence - Whereabouts unconfirmed

If direct contact cannot be made with the child and their whereabouts cannot be confirmed within two hours maximum, they should be referred to WMP as missing. The Police will then make a decision as to whether the child is ‘absent’ or ‘missing’. If absent, CSWS/Police need to:

  • Record the agreement  with the decision; or
  • Agree steps to be taken during the absent period;
  • Agree the timescale for review of this decision; if
  • The child has not been located by the review time, they will be considered missing.
The missing persons officer is responsible for monitoring the case in the absent period.
  11.3.4

Unauthorised Absence - Whereabouts confirmed

If the child’s whereabouts’ are known but they are refusing to return to their care placement they are not “Missing” and these procedures do not apply.

However if the child is deemed to be at risk of harm due to their location or persons they are in contact with, then the responsible social worker will need to consider what action needs to be taken to return this child to a safe place. This may include the need to take legal action under the Children Act 1989 i.e. to seek a Recovery Order or issue a Harbouring notice.

11.4

Admission to Placement - Prevention and Action Plans

  11.4.1 Local Authorities have a duty to place a looked after child in the most appropriate placement available, subject to their duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. Placing the child in an appropriate placement should help to minimise the risk of the child running away. The care plan should include details of the arrangements that will need to be in place to keep the child safe and minimise the risk of the child going missing from their placement.
  11.4.2 Any decision to place a child at distance should be based on an assessment of the child’s needs including their need to be effectively safeguarded. Evidence suggests that distance from home, family and friends is a key factor for looked after children running away.
  11.4.3 Listening to a child is an important factor in protecting and minimising the chances of a child running away. The Children’s Rights Director (2012) reported that “one of the major influences of them running away is having a sense that they are not being listened to and taken seriously”, particularly about placement decisions and moves. All looked after children should be informed about their right to be supported by an independent advocate.
  11.4.4 When a child is identified as needing to be placed in Local Authority care, the social worker compiling the information for the placement request and subsequently information for the carers must include any relevant history regarding the child going missing from home, prior to becoming a Looked After Child, or missing episodes from a previous placement.
  11.4.5 The social worker should discuss the history and the significance of this with the carer/placement provider and prior to placement agree a Prevention and Action Plan to reduce the likelihood of the child running from care and to manage any risks identified to the individual and any risk to or from others in the placement. The child should also be consulted at this early stage to help identify what support they feel will help them not to runaway and how they can access this help. The Prevention and Action Plan must be drawn up in full at the post placement planning meeting. (See Appendix A: Prevention and Action Plan for Looked After Person likely to go Missing).
  11.4.6 At the post placement meeting the social worker should discuss and agree an individual behaviour management plan with the child and their carer, setting out safe care guidelines for the child/ and ensuring that the child knows that they are cared about, not just cared for. The behaviour management policy of the establishment and any individual behaviour management programme used should give priority to positive reinforcement and prevention strategies.
  11.4.7

For all children placed in residential care the placement plan must have reference to risk and running away whether or not they have previously been missing themselves from home or care. Any additional risks of runaways presented by other residents in the placement must be considered and addressed within the Prevention and Action Plan. The social worker and the carer should liaise with relevant agencies who can offer support or who will be responsible for actions should the child go missing. For example, Police, Youth Services, specific counselling/runaway services, Education providers. The responsible social worker and care provider along with any identified others should draw up the Prevention and Action Plan - see Appendix A: Prevention and Action Plan for Looked After Person likely to go Missing.

Children’s home staff and foster carers should be trained and supported to offer a consistent approach to the care of children. This should include being proactive about strategies to prevent children from running away and understanding the procedures that must be followed if a child goes missing. The competence and support needs of children’s home staff and foster carers in responding to missing from care issues should be considered as part of their appraisal and supervision.
  11.4.8 Notification to the host Local Authority of any child placed in their area must be made by representative social worker. If children placed out of their local authority run away, the local RMFHC protocol should be followed, in addition to complying with other processes that are specified in the policy of the responsible local authority. It is possible that the child will return to the area of the responsible authority so it is essential that liaison between the police and professionals in both authorities is well managed and co-ordinated. A notification process for missing and away from placement without authorisation episodes should be agreed between responsible and host local authorities.
  11.4.9 The identification of any ‘Push or Pull’ factors that exist in the child’s life and obtaining their views as to what will support them and minimise them feeling the need to run is an essential part of this discussion and planning.
  11.4.10 The Prevention and Action Plan should set out specific actions to be taken which aim to reduce the likelihood of the child going missing from their placement and a copy of the plan provided to each person identified with a responsibility within the plan. (A template for recording the Prevention and Action Plan can be found at Appendix A: Prevention and Action Plan for Looked After Person likely to go Missing).
  11.4.11 The existence of Push and Pull factors should be considered and addressed throughout the child/ journey through care and the Prevention and Action Plan should be reviewed on a regular basis taking into account detailed information obtained from each runaway incident that has occurred between reviews.

11.5

When a Child Goes Missing

When a child goes missing from their care placement, it is important that agencies work together in a timely, proportionate and co-ordinated way. An immediate response is required to all incidents where a child has gone missing. These immediate responses fall into three activities; Notification, Risk Assessment and Search and Locate.
  11.5.1

Notification

Where a child is placed in Foster Care the responsible social worker or Out of Hours Fostering Advice Service should support the foster carer in all tasks identified for the carer.

Where the child is placed in a residential setting the responsible key worker or shift manager must undertake the carer tasks. 

The carer must notify the responsible social worker once a child is identified as missing. This notification should be by telephone in the first instance but followed up in a written format, e.g. email/fax within 1 hour.

The carer must complete a Risk Assessment of the incident (see Appendix B: Missing Person Risk Assessment) and inform all those identified to have roles and responsibilities within the child’s Prevention and Action Plan.
  11.5.2

Risk Assessment and Reports to Police:

When any child goes missing from care, a risk assessment is required in order to inform an appropriate and proportionate response. The risk assessment tool in these procedures is designed to promote and support those working and caring for the child to identify high risk factors relating to the individual child within the context of the specific missing incident.

A new risk assessment must be completed each time a child goes missing.

Not all missing children will require an immediate referral to the Police. Where the “High” risk factors exist an immediate referral must be made to the Police. For all other cases the Prevention and Action Plan should be acted upon to try and locate the child in the first instance.

The risk assessment template also provides the written evidential base for the decisions made and a copy must be held within the care provider’s records as well as the child’s’s social work file.

Where a carer believes a child is at imminent risk of significant harm they should notify the Social Worker or duty team worker (EDT out of hours) without delay and a strategy discussion must be held.

Where a child remains missing for 24 hours a Missing Person report must be made to the Police if one has not already been made.

(The Risk Assessment tool template can be found at Appendix B: Missing Person Risk Assessment).
  11.5.3

Notifying Parents of a Missing Child:

The social worker is responsible for notifying the parents of a child missing from care. It may be appropriate for the social worker to discuss and agree this task to be undertaken by Police. Parents should be informed without delay unless there is a sound and defensible reason for not doing so, i.e. to do so would place the child at risk of harm or the whereabouts of the parents is unknown. A written record must be made of the notification to parents including any failed attempts to notify them
  11.5.4

Search and Locate Activity:  

The tasks and activities associated with searching for the individual child should be agreed and set out within the child’s Prevention and Action Plan. Where the child subsequently goes missing the Action part of this plan must be undertaken by those identified as responsible. These activities should be undertaken whether or not a Missing Person Report is made to the Police and will reflect the corporate parenting role of the Local Authority.

Each person undertaking an activity to contact and or search for the missing child must make a written record of the actions they undertake (including dates, times and outcomes).

Where any child remains missing for 72 hours, a face-to-face “missing Child Interagency Meeting” is required (see Section 9: Interagency Meeting - Missing from Home or Care).
  11.5.5

Notification to Children’s Social Work Management of Children missing for 24 hours or more

It will be essential to ensure that the work to locate a child who is missing for over 24 hours is co-ordinated and monitored and that senior management are advised, immediately.

  • Where any child is missing from care a Care First observation must be made to record the incident and updated to confirm the child’s return once they have been located.  It is important to update in actual time to record accurately the length of time the child was missing;
  • Where the child remains missing for over 24 hours a missing person report must be made to the Police regardless of the original risk assessment. It is not considered reasonable corporate parenting to have a child missing from care for more than 24 hours without notification to the Police;
  • Where a child is missing from care for 24 hours, the responsible Team Manager/Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) must also be formally informed in writing by the social worker;
  • The team manager must then send notification to the Lead Officer for Children Missing;
  • Where the child remains missing for 72 hours or more, the Service Director must be notified by the responsible Team Manager and an Interagency Meeting held within 3 working days. (See Section 9: Interagency Meeting - Missing from Home or Care).
The format of notifications of a child missing from care is located at Appendix C: Missing from Care - Internal Notification to Children’s Social Work Management.

11.6

Missing Child - Police Investigations

  11.6.1

When reporting a missing child to the Police the following information will be required:

  • A full physical description and recent photograph;
  • Details as to when they were last seen and who with;
  • Information known about the period prior to their disappearance;
  • Previous history of runaway incidents and outcomes of them;
  • Details of parents and relevant family/friends;
  • The child’s legal status as a child in Local Authority care;
  • Names and address of their School and GP;
  • Copy of the Prevention and Action Plan with details of all actions carried out up to the point of referral.
  11.6.2 Once the Police have received a report of a missing child they will confirm the status of the investigation, Low, Medium or High risk and investigation activity will be taken in relation to this assessment. Any disagreement with the Police decision and their proposed actions must be made in writing to the responsible sergeant and copied to the Police Missing Person lead. The responsible social worker and Police Lead Officer for Missing Children must maintain regular liaison and information sharing until the child is located.

11.7

When the Child is Located

  11.7.1

If the child returns, or is returned to the placement, the carer will immediately inform:

  • The child’s social worker and IRO;
  • The Police, if they were notified that the child was missing;
  • The Emergency Duty Team if the child has been referred as at risk of significant harm and returned outside office hours.
  11.7.2 The child’s social worker is then responsible for notifying the child’s parent and network of service providers that she/he has been located and returned to the placement or moved to a new placement.
  11.7.3 If the child’s location is confirmed but they have not returned to the placement, the social worker will negotiate with the Police and the carer to agree the arrangements to return the child to the placement.
  11.7.4 Where there is reason to believe that returning to the same placement would put the child at risk of Significant Harm; any such concerns must be reported to the Team Manager (or EDT Team Manager), who will initiate Child Protection Enquiries and or Position of Trust enquiries as necessary and will explore the alternative care options available.

11.8

Child’s Return to the Placement

The foster carer or residential worker will address any health and welfare needs that are immediately evident. The carer should also be alert to the possibility that there may be unknown factors affecting the child’s state of mind.

If any Child Protection concerns come to light the foster carer or residential worker will report them immediately to the child’s social worker or the Emergency Duty Team.

Where a child was reported missing to the Police, the carer must confirm with the Police the arrangement for the Police Safe and Well Check to be completed (see Section 7: Police Safe and Well Checks - Missing from Home or Care).

The social worker must arrange for the child to have a Welfare Return Interview (see Section 8: Welfare Return Interviews - Runaways from Home or Care).
  11.8.1

Care Planning:

Care plans should include a detailed assessment of the child’s needs, including the need for the provision of an appropriate placement that offers protection from harm. Where a child goes missing from a placement, a statutory review of their care plan can provide an opportunity to check that it addresses the reasons for absence. The review should result in the development of a strategy to minimise a repeat of the missing episode. In particular, any issues relating to the vulnerability of the child to sexual exploitation, trafficking or criminal or gang involvement should be identified. Actions to address these needs and ensure the child is kept safe should be clearly set out in the care plan. The Police and other relevant agencies should be given the opportunity to contribute to the review.
  11.8.2 Where a child already has an established pattern of running away, the care plan should include a strategy to keep them safe and minimise the likelihood of the child running away in the future. This should be discussed and agreed as far as possible with the child and with the child’s carers and should include detailed information about the responsibilities of all services, the child’s parents and other adults involved in the family network. Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) should be informed about missing and away from placement without authorisation episodes and they should address these in statutory reviews.
  11.8.3

Change of Placement:

Moving the child to another placement is not in itself a singular or appropriate response to their going missing from care. Equally moving a child to an out-of-borough placement in an attempt to break links to person/s in the existing placement area is not a simple solution.  Where a child goes missing from care, the social worker and partner agencies must work together to identify the reasons for the child going missing and devise a plan to address these issues. Where a child is moved to an out-of-borough placement, the Prevention and Action Plan must address any additional risk posed due to them being in an unfamiliar area should they go missing. Any change of placement must be agreed as part of the child’s Care Plan or Pathway Plan.

A flow chart for the management of Missing from Care incident can be found at Appendix F:  Children’s Social Work Flowchart/Process for Child Missing from Home or Care.
  11.8.4

Looked after children who may have been trafficked from abroad:

Some looked after children are unaccompanied asylum seeking children or other migrant children. Some of this group may have been trafficked into the UK and may remain under the influence of their traffickers even while they are looked after. Trafficked children are at high risk of going missing, with most going missing within one week of becoming looked after and many within 48 hours. Unaccompanied migrant or asylum seeking children who go missing immediately after becoming looked after should be treated as potential victims of trafficking.
  11.8.5

The assessment of need to inform the care plan will be particularly critical in these circumstances and should be done immediately as the window for intervention is very narrow. The assessment must seek to establish:

  • Relevant details about the child’s background before they came to the UK;
  • An understanding of the reasons why the child came to the UK; and
  • An analysis of the child’s vulnerability to remaining under the influence of traffickers.
  11.8.6 In conducting this assessment, it will be necessary for the Local Authority to work in close co-operation with the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) and immigration staff familiar with patterns of trafficking into the UK. Immigration staff who specialise in trafficking issues should be able to advise on whether information about the individual child suggests that they fit the profile of a potentially trafficked child.
  11.8.7 Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe place before any assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately. The location of the child should not be divulged to any enquirers until their identity and relationship with the child has been established, if necessary with the help of Police and Immigration Services. In these situations the roles and responsibilities of care providers must be fully understood and recorded in the placement plan. Proportionate safety measures that keep the child safe and take into account their best interests should also be put in place to safeguard the child from going missing from care or from being re-trafficked.
  11.8.8 It is essential that the Local Authority continues to share information with the Police and Immigration staff, concerning potential crimes against the child, the risk to other children, or other relevant immigration matters.
  11.8.9 ‘Safeguarding Children Who May Have Been Trafficked’ contains practical guidance for agencies which are likely to encounter, or have referred to them, children who may have been trafficked. Where it is suspected that a child has been trafficked, they should be referred by the Local Authority into the UK’s victim identification framework, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). The Trafficked Children Toolkit, developed by the London Safeguarding Children Board, has been used to develop Solihull LSCB’s Trafficking procedures.  The LSCB Trafficking procedures should be followed when concerns exist about trafficking and will assist professionals assess the needs of these children and to refer them to the NRM.
  11.8.10 NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre provides specialist advice and information to professionals who have concerns that a child may have been trafficked. Phone 0808 800 5000 Monday to Friday 9.30am - 4.30pm; email help@nspcc.org.uk; or NSPCC website.


Section 12: Safeguarding Children Missing from Education

Whenever a child is missing from education, the possibility of trafficking, sexual or commercial exploitation must be explicitly assessed.

Children missing education: statutory guidance for local authorities (September 2016) sets out the key principles to enable local authorities in England to implement their legal duty under section 436A of the Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to identify, as far as it is possible to do so, children missing education (CME). Local authorities should be able to demonstrate that they have considered this statutory guidance and, where it is not followed, the local authority should have reasonable grounds for not doing so.

All schools are required to notify the local authority within five days when a pupil’s name is added to the admission register at a non-standard transition point. Schools will need to provide the local authority with all the information held within the admission register about the pupil. Schools must notify the local authority when a pupil’s name is to be removed from the admission register at a non-standard transition point under any of the fifteen grounds set out in the regulations, as soon as the ground for removal is met and no later than the time at which the pupil’s name is removed from the register.

The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006,  as amended (Education law regarding pupil registration where a child is on a school roll); The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2013; as amended The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016.

12.1

Policy Statement

  12.1.1

Solihull is committed to ensuring that all pupils who go missing or are lost from education in Solihull are quickly located and that support is offered to other local authorities to locate missing/lost pupils.

This can be achieved by:

  • Procedures underpinned by the relevant legal requirements in relation to missing/lost pupils;
  • Procedures which interconnect with the DFE central s2s (school-to-school) Lost Pupils Database; and
  • Procedures which are consistent with and support local safeguarding best practice.
  12.1.2 As a result of daily registration, schools are particularly well placed to notice when a child has gone missing. Action should be taken in respect of this by contacting Parents, Carers and if known Social Worker.
  12.1.3

In Solihull the Children Missing Education Policy relates to all children who are:

  • Of compulsory school age but not on a school roll or being educated otherwise (privately or in an alternative provision);
  • Registered at a school but for a substantial period of time (usually agreed as 4 weeks or more), have not attended school or alternative education provision;
  • Registered at school but their family has moved without providing a forward address or details of a new school;
  • Registered at school or alternative provider but have extremely low attendance or intermittent period of attendance (usually 80% or lower);
  • Below compulsory school age but have become known to the Local Authority through an application for admission into a school nursery or reception class.
  12.1.4 All children will be tracked into provision by the Children Missing Education Officer (CME Officer), and a system of referral, notification and tracking will be introduced between provisions and the CME Officer.
  12.1.5

The CME Officer will be the Lead Professional with regard to the following cohorts of children:

  • Pre-school children from the point of application to when attendance is confirmed;
  • Children transferring between provisions in Solihull;
  • Children transferring between phases (e.g. Primary to Secondary);
  • Children leaving a Solihull provision where the destination is unknown;
  • Children moving into Solihull requiring new provision, where a school place is not available.
  12.1.6 The database will record the last known provision and details of all children missing education.
  12.1.7 All concerns regarding children missing education will be routed through a single point of referral. The Children Missing Education Officer will be the key central point within the Children Missing Education Virtual Team. Notification can be received from within the local authority, schools, other agencies, the general public and children themselves. All initial contacts must be made through the Children Missing Education Officer.  The details for making contact will be widely circulated and regularly refreshed.
  12.1.8 Referrals from schools regarding children known to be persistent, poor attendees should be made to the Education Welfare Officer in the first instance.

12.2

Procedures in Solihull

  12.2.1

If a child leaves a Solihull school:

  • Without the school being advised by the parent/carer which new school the child is to attend; or
  • When the child has not returned from a holiday or an extended holiday within two weeks of the expected date of return the school should promptly take reasonable steps to contact the parents/carers; or
  • If a child fails to attend a new school following a transfer between phases;
  • If a child does not take up a reception class placement.
  12.2.2 If the child is the subject of a Child Protection Plan, looked after or if the school has particular child protection concerns about the child, the Head Teacher should immediately notify the Children’s Social Work Service if resident in Solihull or make immediate contact with the local children’s social work duty team for the child’s home address.
  12.2.3 In general circumstances of a child going missing, who is not known to any other agencies, the Head Teacher should inform the Education Welfare Officer of any child who has not attended for 10 days without provision of reasonable explanation.
  12.2.4

The Education Welfare Officer will work with the Children Missing Education Officer to make reasonable efforts to identify the child’s current whereabouts/destination. This will include:

  • Checks through Council databases to establish whether the child has moved within the Borough;
  • A home visit within 5 working days of referral to make enquiries at home (or known contacts) and neighbours as appropriate;
  • Contact with other agencies known to be involved with the family;
  • Checking with Solihull Community Housing; where appropriate;
  • Adding the child’s details to the CME database.
  12.2.5

If at any time during the checking process, the child is located, the Children Missing Education Officer will:

  • Advise the school by letter informing them of any action to be taken;
  • Inform the school’s Education Welfare Officer;
  • Where a forwarding address is identified, contact will be made with the Education Welfare Service of the new Local Authority.
  12.2.6

Following reasonable inquiries, if the child is still missing, the CME Team Manager will work with the Chief Education Welfare Officer to contact:

  • Solihull Community Health Services;
  • The Benefits Agency;
  • Another Local Authority where the child may be living;
  • Children’s Social Work Service and/or Police where appropriate.
  12.2.7 If the child is located, the above process will be followed and the referral closed.
  12.2.8 The child must not be removed from the school roll until notified by the CME Officer or the Education Welfare Officer that it is appropriate to do so.  At that point the school should complete the removal from roll notification form and follow the procedure outlined in the Removal from Roll Guidance.
  12.2.9

Where the child’s name has been removed from the school roll, but s/he has not been located, the Head Teacher should retain the pupil’s personal file(s) until they are requested by the Local Authority or another education provider.

The CME Officer will continue to regularly monitor any ‘lost’ children to track them into provision.

All children in care of statutory school age have an allocated EDULAC Support Worker. This worker alerts the Virtual Head to any issues regarding children missing education.

As outlined at 12.1.3 children missing education are regarded as:

  • Those without an education place;
  • Those refusing to attend education;
  • Those with low attendance.

Action plans are discussed and reviewed on a regular basis until the position has been resolved, and discussions will also include the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer.

Children who have part-time placements are also included in the above to ensure that full time provision is secured as appropriate for the child.

Children in care missing education are reported to the Virtual Education Board and the Corporate Parenting Board at every board meeting.


Section 13: Safeguarding Missing Families

13.1

Introduction

  13.1.1 Local agencies and professionals, working with children and families where there are outstanding concerns of actual or potential Significant Harm, must bear in mind that unusual non-school attendance, missed appointments, or abortive visits, may indicate that the family has moved out of the area.
  13.1.2 This possibility must also be borne in mind when there are concerns about an unborn child who may be at future risk of Significant Harm.
  13.1.3

These procedures apply if a child in the following circumstances goes missing or cannot be traced:

  • A child who is the subject of a Child Protection referral or Section 47 Enquiry;
  • A child who is the subject of a Child Protection Plan who goes missing or is removed from her/his address outside the terms of the Child Protection Plan
  13.1.4

These procedures also apply to adults whose whereabouts become unknown in the following circumstances:

  • A pregnant woman when there are concerns about the welfare of the child following birth;
  • A family where there are concerns about the welfare of the child because of the presence of a person who presents a risk having contact with the child.

13.2

Immediate Action

  13.2.1 In any of the above circumstances, the relevant Children’s Social Work Team holding case responsibility must be notified immediately.
  13.2.2

The social worker will take active steps to locate the child and ensure the following steps are taken:

  • The Children’s Social Work Team must then inform the Police Public Protection Unit - Child Abuse Investigation Team;
  • The Manager of the Child Protection & Review Team must be informed if a child who has a Child Protection Plan goes missing;
  • The Children’s Social Work Team must contact all local agencies who know the child to inform them of the situation;
  • Existing records in these agencies must be checked to obtain any information, which may help to 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 Named Nurse/Midwife/Health Visitor must be notified about a missing child, family or a pregnant woman. S/he then has responsibility for initiating appropriate local or national notifications of other PCT’s, or their successor organisations;
  • The Children Missing Education Officer must be notified and should notify colleagues in other areas about a pupil whose name may appear on the roll of a new school;
  • The social worker must ensure that all those with Parental Responsibility are informed that the child is missing;
  • The social worker must discuss with her/his Manager whether to notify members of the extended family and if so, how this will be undertaken;
  • The Head of Service, Children’s Social Work Services, should also be informed.

13.3

Strategy Discussion

  13.3.1 If after following the above steps the child has not been traced, a Strategy Discussion chaired by a Children’s Social Work Team Manager/Assistant Team Manager should be convened within 48 hours of the child going missing.
  13.3.2 The Strategy Discussion will also need to consider whether to circulate information to other Local Authorities and other agencies.  This will be undertaken by the Child Protection & Review Unit.
  13.3.3 Consideration should be given to national notification of authorities and agencies including social security, the benefits agency and child benefit agency.
  13.3.4 A senior member of the Children’s Social Work Services should seek assistance from the Department for Work and Pensions if the Police have not already contacted them.
  13.3.5

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 may also be appropriate to contact the Child Abduction Unit, Protecting Children and Uniting Families Across Borders (CFAB) (formerly known as International Social Services) or the Consular Directorate at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office which may be able to make enquiries through their consular post in the country or countries concerned.  See Children from Abroad (Sources from Information).

Cross Border Child Protection Cases under the Hague Convention has been produced by the ICACU. The ICACU is a small administrative unit. Its staff are not lawyers or social workers. The ICACU cannot give legal advice. The ICACU may however be able to help by making a request for co-operation to another country

13.4

Follow-up Action by Children’s Social Work Services

  13.4.1

If the Strategy Discussion agrees that the details of the child or family are to be circulated to other local authorities, the social worker should draft a short letter giving details of:

  • The children in the family;
  • Other family members or significant adults;
  • The circumstances causing concern;
  • Action required if a child is found;
  • Details of contact arrangements for the social worker including out-of-office hours contact;
  • Where possible physical descriptions of the key people and photographs, if available.
  13.4.2 The letter should be sent to the Manager of the Child Protection & Review Unit for distribution to her/his peers nationally, who in turn should circulate within their own Children’s Social Care Services and local agencies.
  13.4.3 The Manager of the Child Protection & Review Unit should inform the Service Director (Children and Young People Services) and the Council’s Communication Team.
  13.4.4 If the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan and not found within 20 working days, the Child Protection Review Conference must be brought forward to consider whether any other action should be taken.

13.5

When the Child, Family or Adult is found

  13.5.1

When a child is found, there should, if practicable, be a further Strategy Discussion convened within one working day, to consider:

  • Whether to instigate a Section 47 Enquiry and agree if a single or joint agency enquiry is necessary;
  • Who will interview the child if a Section 47 Enquiry is to be initiated;
  • Who will interview the child if a Section 47 Enquiry is not required;
  • Who needs to be informed of the child’s return (locally and nationally).
  13.5.2 This interview should provide a safe opportunity for the child to discuss any concerns regarding her/his care including if they chose to run away from an abusive situation.
  13.5.3 If the child indicates a wish to be interviewed by a particular professional, all reasonable efforts must be made to accommodate the child’s wishes.
  13.5.4 If the child has been found outside of Solihull and is not likely to return to the area, representatives of the ‘receiving’ local authority must be involved in the Strategy Discussion and the transfer of responsibility for and/or services to the child and family must be discussed with the receiving local authority; including the need to convene a child protection conference.
  13.5.5 If the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan, consideration must be given by the social worker and Team Manager in consultation with the Conference Chair, about the need to bring forward the Child Protection Review Conference/ transfer Child Protection Conference.
  13.5.6 In all cases, the social worker and their Team Manager must give explicit consideration as to the need for legal action and record the reasons for their decision.


Section 14: Safeguarding Children Missing from Other Local Authorities

14.1 In all cases, the social worker and their Team Manager must give explicit consideration as to the need for legal action and record the reasons for their decision.
14.2 The Manager of the Child Protection and Review Unit must ensure that notifications of children and/or families who are missing from other local authorities are entered onto the electronic social care records.
14.3 If, after 1 year there is no communication from the authority where the child and/or family went missing, the child and/or family details will be removed.

End