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1.3.2 Children Who Run Away or Go Missing/Absent From Home or Care

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter applies to the Bedford Borough Council internal procedures for children who run away or go missing from home or care. These procedures are supplemented by the national statutory guidance and the Bedford Borough Safeguarding Children Board Procedures.

RELATED CHAPTER

Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation

AMENDMENT

In November 2017, Section 2, Responding to Missing Children Reports was extensively updated and should be read throughout.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Responding to Missing Children Reports
  3. Quality Assurance
  4. Children Missing Flowchart

    Appendix 1: Return Interviews Template


1. Introduction

The Department for Education has issued, ‘Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care’ and this is reflected in the Bedford Borough Safeguarding Children Board procedures. This guidance and procedures offer the policy and multi-agency protocols which must be followed for children who go missing.

The links to these documents are as follows:

The above guidance should always be referenced, however, in Children’s Safeguarding; there are more detailed procedures which must be followed. These are as follows.


2. Responding to Missing Children Reports

Key Messages

The full guidance on responding to children who go missing or run away, is contained in the Bedford Borough Safeguarding Children Board (BBSCB) Pan-Bedfordshire Procedures which should be read alongside the guidance below. The guidance below sets out the internal processes for responding to missing children reports.

In Bedford Borough Children’s Services all absences and missing episodes are classified as missing episodes.

The Police will provide daily notifications of children who have been reported as missing to Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). MASH will inform the child’s social worker on the same day that the information is received.

When children go missing from home or care, the general principle is that they must be offered a return interview within 72 hours of returning home and the interview must be recorded to inform on-going planning.

A strategy meeting should be held if a child or young person goes missing for over 24 hours or a child or young person goes missing for three occasions in 90 days.

In Bedford Borough Children’s Services all absences and missing episodes are classified as missing episodes. 

The Police will provide daily notifications of children who have been reported as missing to MASH. MASH will inform the child’s social worker on the same day that the information is received by MASH.

Cases Not Currently Open

MASH will record the alert on the Azeus record and where the child is not known, MASH will consult with the parents will determine whether a return interview is needed. MASH will also record a contact and undertake multi-agency checks if appropriate.

The MASH Team Manager will pass the referral to the Assessment Team for a strategy meeting to be held, if the child/young person has been missing for more than 24 hours and/or the child is also at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation, is engaged in criminal activities or if the child has been hurt or harmed whilst they have been missing. If there are more than two missing episodes and/or there are concerns in relation to the vulnerability of the child then a Single Assessment and a Strategy Meeting should be considered. Other vulnerability factors, such as the age of the child and their capacity should be considerations to trigger either a strategy meeting or an assessment, or both.

If required the MASH team will then submit the contact to the Assessment team and the Assessment Team Manager will allocate the case. A Strategy Meeting will then be held within 48 hours but sooner, if concerns for the safety of the young person are urgent. For very young children who have gone missing, the strategy meeting should be held urgently, within hours of notification. The strategy meeting should ensure that there is a plan to mitigate all identified risks. The strategy meeting should also consider whether or not there should be a planned approach to notifying other local authorities that the young person is missing, and to considering using the media to help to find the missing young person.

Return Interviews

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. 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.

However, should the looked after child refuse an independent return interview then the social worker should determine who best should undertake the return interview, based upon who the child is most likely to engage with, in the professional network.

Open Cases

If the child is currently an open case, once the notification is received by MASH, MASH will record an ‘alert’ on the Azeus record and will inform the child’s social worker and their manager. MASH will add an action for the missing pro-forma which will in turn trigger an email to the social worker. The social worker will then record Part A of the ‘missing child/young person/family/unborn baby pro-forma’ as well as a risk assessment.

On all open cases a return interview should be offered for all absent and missing episodes (see also section on multiple missing episodes below). Consideration should be given to who will be the best person to interview the child/young person and this could range from an independent person in Barnardo's, to the social worker, the YOS worker or any other practitioner who is known to the child/young person.

Looked After Children

For Looked After Children, when a child has been reported as missing, the parent/carer/keyworker should report this to the Police and if it is out of hours the carer should also notify EDT.

If the child is looked after, the return interview should be completed by a person independent of the child’s placement either via a referral to Barnardo's/independent professional (of provision) or by the social worker. However, should the looked after child refuse an independent return interview then the social worker should determine who best should undertake the return interview, based upon who the child is most likely to engage with, in the professional network.

The statutory guidance on return interviews for looked after children should be noted as follows:

“An independent return interview should be offered when a missing looked after child is found. Where possible, the child should be given the opportunity to talk before they return to their placement. The person conducting the interview should usually be independent of the child’s placement and of the responsible local authority. An exception maybe where a child has a strong relationship with a carer or social worker and has expressed a preference to talk to them, rather than an independent person, about the reasons they went missing. The child should be offered the option of speaking to an independent representative or advocate”.

When a child or young person goes missing from a Residential placement, the Placements Team Manager should be notified who will then request a regulation 44 report from the provider of the placement to ensure that the safeguarding procedures for young people in placement is being followed.

Where a child has an established pattern of going missing, the care plan should include a strategy to keep them safe and minimise the likelihood of the child going missing 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.

The Independent Reviewing Officer should be informed about children missing from placement without authorisation episodes and they should address these in statutory reviews.

A strategy meeting should be held if a child or young person goes missing for over 24 hours or a child or young person goes missing for three occasions in 90 days.

All Children

When a child returns, Part B of the Missing Pro Forma should be completed and the Missing alert should be ended. Part B should clearly outline what actions have been taken to respond to the missing episode.

A risk assessment should also be completed in all cases and where the level of risk is significant, then a strategy meeting should be arranged. The strategy meeting should ensure that there is a plan to mitigate all identified risks. The strategy meeting should also consider whether or not there should be a planned approach to notifying other local authorities that the young person is missing, and to considering using the media to help to find the missing young person.

The return interview should take place within seventy-two hours of the child returning. The social worker should make every effort to engage the young person in the return interview.

The return interview should be uploaded into the documents section of Azeus. Any intelligence obtained from the return interview or from any follow up work undertaken, should be shared with Child Sexual Exploitation Group (CSEG), using the intelligence submission form which is obtainable on the Bedford Borough Council website.

All incidents of missing episodes must be discussed in supervision and recorded in the supervision note.

Multiple Missing Episodes

A strategy meeting should be held if a child or young person goes missing for over 24 hours or a child or young person goes missing for three occasions in 90 days. Strategy meetings should be reconvened, should missing episodes persist. Additionally a referral should be made to the CSE/Missing panel for a case discussion. A supervision between the social worker and line manager should also record the strategy in place to safeguard the young person. The strategy should be reconsidered at following supervision discussions. A Legal Planning Meeting should additionally be considered.

There will be a range of frequencies of Return Interviews required, for example, if a young person goes missing several times in one week, then a return interview should be held for every week that this is the case. If a young person goes missing one or more times in a month but less than several times per week, then return interviews should be held on a monthly basis until missing episodes reduce. In any case, managers must assess the level of risk with the social worker and ensure that the number of return interviews are tailored to the circumstances appropriately. The rationale and decision must be recorded as a management decision in the case notes.

Notifications to Other Local Authorities

Notifications to other local authorities of a missing young person known to Bedford Children’s Services should be made via the Conference and Reviewing Service, using the Missing Pro-forma Template.

When a looked after child is placed in a host authority, the responsible authority should ensure the independent review interview takes place, working closely with the host authority.

If a looked after child from another Local Authority is placed in Bedford and goes missing then the MASH will create an alert and contact on the child’s Azeus file. MASH will contact the Home Authority to ensure they are aware that the child has been reported as missing. If MASH believes the concern is not being addressed by the Home Authority then this will be escalated within the Home Authority. There may be occasions when MASH will instigate a Strategy Meeting on these children if immediate safeguarding measures are required.

Should there be multiple missing episodes of children looked after by another local authority, MASH will escalate this concern through management lines in the relevant local authority.

Return Interviews

Appendix 1: Return Interviews Template should be used.

Referrals for Independent Interviews

Any referral for an independent return interview, should be made using a referral form for the Barnardo's service. See Barnardo's website, Bedford Borough Return Interview Service.


3. Quality Assurance

Information will be provided monthly to the Performance and Quality Assurance group on the following:

  • Numbers of times each child who has gone missing, has been missing;
  • For each child, numbers of episodes of 24 hours;
  • Numbers of children who have been missing and found who have been offered a return interview;
  • Numbers of children who have been missing and found who have received a return interview;
  • Numbers of children who have been missing placed in Residential units;
  • Numbers of children who have been missing placed out of Borough;
  • Action taken (Single Assessment, Risk Assessment, Strategy Meeting, Other);
  • Action status (as per Azeus workflow);
  • Where children/young people have been found.


4. Children Missing Flowchart

Click here to view the Children Missing Flowchart.


Appendix 1: Return Interviews Template

Click here to view Appendix 1: Return Interviews Template.

End