Information Sharing and Reporting Arrangements
- The over-arching aims, purpose and legal background to the protocol
- Key Definitions
- Key Roles
- Multi-agency working
- Missing / Absent categories
- When a child or young person goes Missing or Absent
- Response from Service Police
- Service Police risk assessment
- Notifying relevant others of the incident
- When children and young people are found – Location and Return
- The use of Police protection powers
- Where a missing or absent child or young person is subject to a care order
- Where a missing child or young person is Looked After under s20
- The Police Safe and Well check
- The return interview
- Out of hours response
- Additional procedures
- Where a child or young person is missing for over 48hrs
- Where a child or young person is subject to a child protection plan
- Missing during external activities
- Appendix 1 - Missing Child Risk Assesment
- Appendix 2 - Foster Carer Record of Child Missing Incident
1.1 Everyone has a responsibility to safeguard the young and vulnerable.
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people is a key duty and requires effective joint working between agencies and professionals. When a child or young person goes missing or runs away they are at risk. All agencies in contact with children and young people need to be aware of the potential risks young people face when they go missing or absent whether from home or care.
Children may run away from a problem, such as abuse, neglect or challenge at home, or to somewhere they want to be / someone they want to be with. They may have been coerced to run away by someone else. There are particular concerns about the links between children running away / missing and the risks of sexual exploitation.
The risks faced by young people are the same regardless of how often they have run away from home. However, younger children and those who runaway more often, could be more likely to face serious, long term problems.
The immediate risks associated with running away include:
- No means of support or legitimate income – leading to high risk activities;
- Possible involvement in criminal activities;
- Becoming a victim of crime, for example through sexual assault and exploitation;
- Alcohol and substance misuse;
- Deterioration of physical and mental / emotional health;
- Loss of education and training;
- Inappropriate / manipulative / exploitive relationships.
Longer-term risks include:
- Long-term substance dependency;
- Involvement in crime;
- Involvement in sexual exploitation into adulthood;
Over a third (36%) of young people who have run away have first done so before the age of 13. Around one in nine (11%) of young people who have run away said that they had been hurt or harmed while away from home or care. (Still Running 3, The Children’s Society 2011).
It is vital that the missing episode itself is not seen as a discrete incident but as a symptom of other ongoing issues. It is important to deal with the missing episode, locate the missing person and ensure they are returned safe and well. However it should not stop there; as ongoing work to identify the causes of missing incidents and preventing them reoccurring is as vital. Together with flagging up via a multi-agency approach, the dangers these individuals may be facing and the preventative / early help work that may keep the individual safe should they run away or go missing / absent again.
Children with mental or emotional health needs, learning and physical disabilities are particularly vulnerable when missing or absent. They may have communication difficulties and fewer opportunities to disclose reasons for running away. They are also far more at risk of sexual or other exploitation. All agencies should be alert to the particular needs of disabled children, making sure they know how to raise concerns and receive whatever assistance and support they require. If any child or young person within this category goes missing or absent they should immediately and automatically be considered as being at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
The Overarching aims, purpose and legal background to this protocol
1.2There are 4 main aims which all agencies, statutory or voluntary sector, should work collectively to deliver:
Prevent – reducing the number of children and young people who go missing – through prevention strategies, education work and early intervention in cases of repeated missing and / or absent episodes and patterns.
Protect – reducing the risk of harm to those who go missing / absent – by ensuring local agencies provide a tailored, risk based response and work together to find the person, to investigate cases and causes, sharing key information.
Prepare – providing missing / absent children and young people and their families / carers with support and guidance – by referring promptly to other agencies (if appropriate) and ensuring they understand how and where to access help and support.
Pursue – investigate each episode of missing to understand the causes and establish reasons for it. Where criminality is identified, ensure investigation and disruption of those identified.
1.3It is essential that everyone is working together for children and young people and ensures that:
- All appropriate agencies and individuals are notified if children and young people are missing or absent and / or return;
- A clear plan of effective inter-agency action is taken to trace or return children and young people who run away or go missing;
- Appropriate and effective actions are taken when children and young people return or are located. This includes provision of a return interview and ongoing support when required;
- The Service Police are appropriately notified of children and young people who go missing or absent;
- Information is gathered to inform the Safeguarding Board (SC),
1.4Children and young people are positively encouraged to influence the outcome of any professional intervention;
- All partners regularly update their knowledge of the SB procedures;
- Raising awareness of children who are missing or absent with all professionals and others who work with children, young people, families and the general public;
- Protect and prevent vulnerable children from going missing or absent and contribute to reducing the number of people going missing or absent;
- Provide effective and early intervention and prevention strategies to help reduce the potential of repeat cases;
- Be aware of the name of the lead SB person in their own organisations;
- Ensure that all new employees receive safeguarding training that explains the potential vulnerability of all categories of missing or absent children, and the procedures to follow.
2.1This Policy adopts the definitions proposed by Statutory Guidance on Children Who Run Away or Go Missing from Home or Care (2014):
Child: anyone who has not yet reached his or her 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.
Reporting individual: the person reporting the child / young person as missing.
- Reporting information about patterns of absence among children and young
people who run away and are reported missing or absent to the CYP Directorate and those responsible in Command for "corporate parenting"
- Monitoring policies and data relating to children missing or absent from home or care including the facilitation of return interviews.
The Service Police has responsibility for:
- Maintaining and improving links with local services for missing and absent children and young people;
- Informing BFSWS of reported cases of missing / absence.
- Developing specialist skills and knowledge about running away;
- Providing a consistent and efficient response.
The Service Police and the BFSWS Manager in charge of missing and absent children (HoS) are key to the processes outlined in this protocol. Each ensures that records of notifications are made on their agency databases and there is a timely and efficient exchange of information about children between the two agencies.
Multi Agency Working
2.2A multi-agency approach and information sharing are key to this protocol. The Early Help Framework in line with Chapter 1 of Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) will allow agencies to share relevant information and more easily identify early warning signs when young people are at risk of running away. Where a child needs support from several agencies, a Lead Professional should help ensure coordination of services. However where the child or young person is potentially a Child in Need or a Child in Need of Protection, a referral should then be made directly to BFSWS through the Central Referral Team on: 0049 800 7243176
Appendix 1 Risk Assessment can be completed at the start of placement when historical information has been provided by the placing authority or complete at any time a child goes missing to assist in risk assessment and addressing the reason for their absence.
2.3In line with the National Police guidance, with effect from 1st April 2015, Service Police have adopted a risk-based approach to managing incidents where children or young people go missing. In order that resources are targeted at locating the most vulnerable, the police will categorise incidents in the following way, under set definitions:
- Missing: ‘Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character, or the context suggests the person may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another’;
- Absent: ‘A person is not at a place where they are expected or required to be’.
The child or young person will be categorised as “absent” if they are not at a place where they are supposed to be and there is no apparent risk. Absent cases should still be reported and will not be ignored by the Service Police. They will not be actively looking for the child or young person, but they will continue to monitor and review the case and, if there is a change to the circumstances that increases the level of risk then they may be escalated to “missing”.
These definitions apply to all children and young people, whether missing or absent from home or looked after children missing from their placement / foster home or missing from residential placements (including boarding schools).
Looked after children absent from their placement without authorisation:
The previous term for this was ‘unauthorised absence’. This is when young people are absent for a short period of time i.e. less than overnight, and after a careful and thorough risk assessment; the absence does not raise concern for their immediate safety or that of the public.
Whether the absence is careless or deliberate, or if there is no apparent risk for their immediate safety, they would still fall into the ‘absent’ category as they are ‘not at a place they are expected or required to be.’ These will be dealt with following the ‘absent’ process (see below).
3.When a child or young person goes missing/absent
3.1Before contacting the Service Police – proactive attempts to locate the child or young person must be made. This should be seen in the context of the age and vulnerability of the child and specific situation prior to the missing episode.
When a child or young person is identified as not being at a location they are expected to be at, the reporting individual (for example a parent / care provider / foster carer / social worker / teacher etc) must take proactive steps to trace the child or young person’s whereabouts prior to contacting the Service Police and keep a record of these enquiries so they can pass on the information.
Proactive attempts to locate the child or young person should include:
- Physical checks of the residence, including the child’s bedroom and any other location the child may be hiding within the house / building.
- Physical checks of any garden, garage, sheds, grounds and surrounding area(s).
- Attempting to contact the missing person directly, via mobile phone, text, or social networking sites (i.e. twitter / facebook / whatsapp etc).
- Contacting the missing child or young person’s wider family and friends to ascertain if the child or young person is there or has made contact with them.
Additionally, where a child or young person is a Looked After Child, the reporting Individual should:
- Make reference to any risk assessments, Care Plans, Placement Plans or other planning documents in place that refer to the needs of the young person and in particular may detail the management of the risk that the child or young person may go missing.
Where such enquiries do not establish the whereabouts of the child or young person, the reporting individual should report the incident to the Service Police.
If there has been no need to contact the Service Police, and the child is a Looked After Child (LAC), details of the incident should be recorded in full according to BFSWS protocol and dealt with as part of the existing care plan.
Foster carers must keep a full record of the circumstances in which the child goes missing and any actions they take See Appendix 2.
Notifying relevant others of the incident
Where a child or young person is looked after, the reporting individual should also ensure that the following others are contacted as soon as is practicable after the child or young person is not where they are expected to be:
- Adults with parental responsibility for the child or young person unless it would not be appropriate to do so. Contact details will be within the Placement Planning documents.
‘Concern for Welfare’
If there is concern for the welfare / safety of a child or young person, they may be reported as a child or young person at risk of harm; for example, where a young person is staying over and refusing to leave a house where there is known drug dealing, or is the residence of a known sex offender. In these types of scenarios, the child or young person would still be classed as ‘absent’ as they are ‘not at a place they are expected or required to be’, however there is a clear concern of risk of harm to them. These should be reported to Service Police in the same way (see below) and the circumstances would inform the risk assessment. Children / young people should not be reported missing as a behaviour management tool.
Response from Service Police
3.2This Protocol details the response from the Service Police to reports of children and young people who are missing or absent. Where a report is made to another Police Force, such as the German Civil Police of other Host Nation Police Forces, reference should be made to the local Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or NATO Status of Forces Agreement Act which will help establish the jurisdictional lead for finding the missing child with other policing agencies providing mutual support in order to achieve this task. In either case consideration should always be made in relation to informing Host Nation Police Forces immediately, to draw on their support and available specialist agency knowledge.
Service Police Priorities:
The priorities of the Service Police in responding to reports of missing or absent persons are:
- To ensure that every report of a missing or absent person is risk assessed so that those who may be vulnerable or represent high risk are immediately identified.
- To investigate reports of missing persons basing the level of response to the classification of risk identified.
- To consider the well-being of the missing person, compassionate treatment of relatives or friends of the missing person, and the community.
- To consider that the missing person may have been the victim of serious crime and the need to preserve and manage evidence in suspicious cases.
Service Police Risk Assessment
When the Service Police are informed of an incident, they will confirm whether they are going to treat the person as ‘Missing’ or ‘Absent’. This will be based on an assessment of risk. However, where a child or young person is aged 12 or under, or those already subject to a Child Sexual Exploitation flag, or appear to be at risk of harm of sexual exploitation, they will automatically be classified as ‘Missing’ rather than ‘Absent’. Additionally, where a children is subject to learning disabilities, the level of risk will include a consideration of their level of development and functioning rather than their chronological age.
When the reporting individual contacts the Service Police, the call taker will ask a series of questions regarding the history of the child or young person and any particular risks to or posed by them. These enquiries will enable an individual risk assessment to be conducted by the call taker, who will then decide whether the individual is MISSING or ABSENT.
For Looked After Children, staff reporting the incident (including foster carers) should have the care and placement plan to hand where practicably possible. The responses to these questions will be recorded by the call-taker on the occurrence record.
The outcomes of the risk assessment will be the guide for the Service Police response and the level of enquiries undertaken. The Service Police investigation will be carried out in accordance with the Military Police Investigation Doctrine Chapter 20 - Missing Persons. The investigation and all resulting Police actions will be proportionate to the risk level accorded to the enquiry. Whilst partner agencies may have their own risk assessments, the Service Police investigation will be proportionate to the Service Police risk assessment allocated as below, which may be different.
The risk assessment framework used by the Service Police:
|High Risk||The risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the subject is in danger through their own vulnerability; or 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.|
|Medium Risk||The risk posed is likely to place the subject in danger or they are a threat to themselves or others.|
There is no apparent risk of danger to either the subject or the public. Children and
young people under 18 years
of age should will not be included
in this classification.
3.3Where a child or young person is determined to be MISSING
A Police Patrol will be deployed to the scene and Service Police missing person procedures will be implemented. An investigation will commence which will be subject to active supervision throughout the incident.
The Service Police will continue enquiries with other agencies being informed and engaged with as appropriate to assist and support in finding the missing person.
Where a child or young person is determined to be ABSENT
The Service Police will record the occurrence, the ABSENT category comprises of cases in which people are not presently where they are supposed to be and there is no apparent risk. ‘Absent’ cases should not be ignored, and will be monitored by the Service Police over agreed periods of time with consideration given to escalating to ‘missing’ if there is a change to the circumstances that has increased the level of risk. In this situation the reporting individual is expected to continue taking steps to identify the location of the missing person while the Service Police may engage other agencies as deemed appropriate to support in the location of the ABSENT person or better establish the nature of risk involved.
It is unlikely that any ABSENT case will reach 72 hours without this being considered ‘out of character’, and the risk assessment being upgraded to MISSING. It is therefore vital that the reporting individual updates the Service Police with key information during the absent episode.
Where the reporting individual disagrees with the Service Police classification
The Service Police have a duty of positive action under the Human Rights Act 1998 to take reasonable action, within their powers to safeguard the rights of individuals who may be at risk. If the person reporting an ABSENT person is not happy with the classification allocated by Service Police, they should raise the matter with the Service Police Supervisor, indicating the risk factors they wish to emphasis.
Police Notification to others of a missing or absent child/young person
Notification to BFSWS for the child or young person
3.4All incidents of children and young people reported to SP as Missing or Absent will be collated by the Service Police and BFSWS notified.
|BFG + Area of Responsibility Notification Pathway|
|Circumstances of Child or Young Person||Notification Contact Details|
|For a child or young person living within BFG AOR including those placed in BFG AOR by another Local Authority||CRT details including ooh|
|Other Relevant Local Authority|
|Circumstances of Child or Young Person||Notification Contact Details|
Where a child or young person is placed in BFG AOR by another Local Authority, that Local Authority will also be notified by the SP
|This will be dependent on the particular Local Authority of the young person. Details should be available on the Placement Plan accessible and known to the carer.|
Each Local Authority will then ensure appropriate forward communication as appropriate, including allocated Social Worker, Manager and Independent Conference and Review Service.
Notification to other Agency Partners
It is for the relevant BFSWS to notify Agency Partners of the missing or absent episode. They will ensure that any Education facilities that the child is involved with are notified of the missing or absent event. This may also include notifying health professionals involved, such as the School or LAC Nurse and the child or young person’s GP.
Notification to the Media
The Service Police will advise the media and request their assistance (after appropriate consultation with parents / guardians and / or BFG Command) in certain circumstances, after a thorough risk assessment has been conducted. All appropriate media should be considered to assist in the swift and safe return of the child or young person.
Notification to the ‘host’ local authority where a Looked After Child is placed where there are safeguarding concerns
Where the child is placed by a responsible Local Authority in another local authority area (host), if there are concerns that the missing or absent episode has or may place the child or young person at risk of significant harm from abuse or neglect, it will be for the responsible Local Authority to make a safeguarding referral to the host Local Authority Children’s Social Care Team requesting a Strategy Discussion. This is because lead responsibility for safeguarding of children or young people at risk of significant harm is that of the local Children’s Social Care because of their local knowledge and partnerships.
4.When children and young people are found – Location and Return
4.1It is important that there are processes in place for when missing or absent children and young people are located. This is so we gain a better understanding of the reasons for those missing or absent episodes and can address any issues that may have caused them, as well as protecting the child or young person from future harm.
It is noted that the attitude of professionals, such as police officers and social workers, towards a child or young person who has been missing can have a big impact on how they will engage with subsequent investigations and protection planning. However “streetwise” they may appear, they are children and may be extremely vulnerable to multiple risks. A supportive approach, actively listening and responding to a child or young person’s needs, will have a greater chance of preventing the child or young person from going missing again and safeguarding them against other risks.
Location and Return of an ‘ABSENT’ child or young person
Where a child or young person who has been reported to the Service Police and deemed, following risk assessment as ‘Absent’, returns or is located and returned to a safe place other than by the Police, the Service Police should be notified as soon as possible by the parent or carer that the episode is over (Service Police keep absence episodes under constant review). At the point of reporting a return, parents or carers will be asked if there is anything the Service Police need to know or act on, in terms of the child or young person’s behaviour or welfare. It is essential that those classed as absent are still appropriately safeguarded and kept safe.
Generally there is no requirement for the Service Police to conduct a visit or Safe & Well Check for children or young people who were classified as ‘Absent’ unless there are concerns for the welfare of the child, but it is important to identify any information indicating that the person has come to harm or may be at on-going risk of harm, and take appropriate action.
The use of Police Protection Powers
4.2Where the child or young person is located by the Service Police and the Police Officer attending the location of the missing or absent person has reasonable cause to believe that the child or young person would otherwise be likely to suffer significant harm, the Officer may take the child into their Police Protection for a period up to 72 hours (Police Protection Order Section (22A) Armed Forces Act 2006 (amended AFA 91)) with a view to returning them to a place of safety – this may be the home address, the carer’s, or other Local Authority accommodation or a place chosen by the Authority.
If a Police Protection Order is necessary, the Service Police must inform the relevant Social Services as soon as practicable. If the person with parental responsibilities can nominate appropriate accommodation and a background check can confirm that this is a safe environment, then this should be used in the first instance. JRT SIB should be informed immediately in either situation, as they can advise and assist if necessary.
Where a missing or absent child or young person is subject to a care order
4.3When a child or young person is Looked After Child and subject to a Care Order, the child or young person can be returned to their placement unless it would not be safe for them to do so. If any information is disclosed in the course of the missing or absent episode that suggests that it would not be safe to return to the placement, this will be discussed with the responsible Local Authority (or their out of hours provision) to establish an immediate course of action, including identifying an alternative place of safety. Service Police Officers will also consider markers on an address that indicate Child Protection concerns or history.
Transport of the child or young person back to the placement (or place of safety) is dependent upon who located the child or young person. The following expectations are:
- If physically located by the Service Police, the child or young person is to be returned by the Service Police to their placement (or place of safety);
- If physically located by another statutory agency (Social Worker / Care provider, including foster carer), the locating agency / individual must return the child or young person to their placement (or place of safety)
- If physically located by family / friends, the carers are to advise them that the missing child or young person should be returned to their placement (place of safety) at the earliest opportunity and assist them in doing so if necessary.
- If located by other means (e.g. telephone), the responsible Local Authority should facilitate the collection and return of the missing child or young person to their placement (or place of safety).
Where a missing or absent child or young person is Looked After under Section 20 (Voluntary Care)
4.4When a child or young person is reported missing from a placement and is accommodated under Section 20 Children Act 1989 (where the Local Authority cares for the child with the consent of those with parental responsibility and does not have parental responsibility itself), the Service Police have no power to return the child or young person to their placement (or place of safety) without their consent. In such circumstances, the child or young person should be actively encouraged to return. If the child or young person refuses to consent, the Service Police will assess whether there are safeguarding concerns for their welfare and/or the circumstances (or location) at which they have been found.
Where necessary, attending officers may consider the use of Police Protection powers. If there are no grounds to exercise Police Protection, the locating Officer(s) must:
- Conduct a Safe and Well Check (SWC);
- Ensure the child is safe and advise them on how to return to their placement;
- Notify the carer of the child or young person’s location;
- Update fully and close the report.
If the care provider agrees for the child to remain where located, the decision will be recorded by the Service Police in the incident log (COPPERS).
Where a child or young person is located by an agency or individual other than the Service Police, the following action should be taken:
- Immediately notify the carer of where the child or young person has been located.
- Provide details of any concerns to the carer.
- Agree with the carer an immediate action plan to safeguard the child or young person until such time as the carer can arrange for the child or young person to be collected.
- Notify the Service Police of the individual’s location and any concerns they may have in order that the Police can consider use of Police Protection powers and complete a Safe and Well Check (SWC).
5.The Police Safe and Well Check
5.1Safe and Well Checks for Absent Children and Young People
As noted, SP will not ordinarily undertake a Safe and Well Check on a child or young person located following an episode deemed ‘Absent’. However, the Service Police will review each episode on a case-by-case basis and if information about the episode raises a concern about their welfare, for example Child Sexual Exploitation, then a Safe and Well Check will be considered.
Safe and Well Checks for Missing Children and Young People
When a child or young person has been located following an episode deemed ‘Missing’, statutory guidance requires that
‘The service police will undertake a safe and well check to establish whether there are any indications that the child has suffered harm, where and with whom they have been, and to give them an opportunity to disclose any offending by or against them’.
The Service Police will carry out a Safe and Well Check on all children and young people who have been categorised as missing, as soon as practicable after they are found and should be completed within 24 hours of the person being located. The details will be recorded on the Missing Person Report and passed on to the relevant Local Authority Children’s Social Care.
Objectives of a Service Police Safe and Well Check
A Safe and Well Check requires a Police Officer to physically see and speak to the missing child or young person as soon as possible after they are found. The Service Police should also speak to the child or young person’s parents or carers to satisfy themselves that the child or young person is safe. A Safe and Well Check will be recorded within the investigation file created by the Service Police.
The objectives of a Service Police Safe and Well Check will be to:
- Determine the reasons why the child or young person went missing and in particular, if they have been subject to violence, exploitation, abuse or bullying;
- To establish if they have been the victim of or committed any crime whilst missing;
- To discover where and by whom they have been harbored (
- To obtain information which may lead to their early location should they disappear again;
- To put in place any support and preventative measures to avoid such a recurrence;
- To inform the child or young person and their parents and carers, if appropriate, that:
- the relevant Local Authority Children’s Social Care has been notified of the missing episode; and
- that they will be contacted by an Officer of the Local Authority and offered an Independent Return Interview.
Decision not to conduct a Safe and Well Check
Where a child or young person goes missing or absent frequently, it may not be practicable for the Service Police to conduct a Safe and Well Check and a different approach may be more appropriate. In these cases, discussion should take place between the Service Police and the child’s parent or carer or, if Looked After, their allocated Social Worker, to agree the frequency of such checks. Given the established link between frequent missing or absent episodes and serious harm, which could include gang involvement, forced marriage, bullying or sexual exploitation, agreements not to conduct a Safe and Well Check should be recorded by both Service Police and BFSWS. A Service Police Supervisor will account for the rationale where there was no Safe and Well Check conducted.
The Return Interview
5.2Statutory guidance requires that whenever a missing child is located and returned, they must be offered an independent return interview. Independent return interviews provide an opportunity to uncover information that can help protect children and young people from the risk of going missing again, from risks they may have been exposed to while missing or from risk factors in their home. This process is distinct from a Police Safe and Well Check (which is not designed or often best placed to explore the causes) and is a requirement of the Local Authority responsible for the child or young person or, if Looked After, the relevant Local Authority. It should be carried out within 72 hours of the child returning to their home or care setting.
The interview should be held in a neutral place where the child or young person feels safe, comfortable and able to talk openly. When the child or young person is Looked After, where possible, the Independent Return Interview should take place before they return to their placement.
Purpose of the Independent Return Interview
The interview should:
- Identify and deal with any harm the child or young person 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;
- Understand and try to address the reasons why the child or young person went missing;
- Help the child or young person 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 go missing again, including helpline numbers.
Who should undertake the Independent Return Interview
The interview provides an opportunity to hear from a child or young person about why they went missing and to understand the risks and issues faced by them whilst missing. Children and young people sometimes need to build up trust with a person before they will discuss in depth the reasons why they ran away.
The Independent Return Interview should be carried out by someone who is trained to carry out these interviews and is able to follow-up any actions that emerge. Local Authorities will differ on how the Independent Return Interview is facilitated.
All Local Authorities are however obliged to ensure that the interviewer is independent of the care of the child and, for Looked After Children, the placement and the responsible Local Authority, save where a child or young person 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. Additionally, all children and young people who are offered an Independent Return Interview should be offered the option of speaking to an independent Advocate.
|Independent Return Interview Arrangements|
|Circumstances of Child or Young Person||Return Interviewer|
For a child or young person living within the BFG AOR not an open case to BFSWS
Referral and Assessment Service – where a child is reported to have been missing, upon location and return, a Duty Social Worker will offer a return interview. This interview will inform whether the child or young person is in need of services or at risk of harm.
Cases with an allocated Worker (Children In Need and subject to a Child Protection Plan)
BFSWS Team Duty Worker - the interview will be conducted by a Worker who is not the allocated worker in order to offer some independence to the assessment unless there is a suitable professional that the child would prefer.
For a child or young person ‘looked after’ by BFSWS
Independent Return Interviewer – the interview will be arranged by the child’s allocated Social Worker /independent person trained for this role. A record of the interview will then be provided to the Social Worker and Manager and ICRS
|Independent Return Interview Arrangements|
|Circumstances of Child or Young Person||Return Interviewer|
For a child or young person living within the BFG AOR and not an open case to BFSWS
|Prevention / Early Help Team|
Cases with an allocated Worker (Children In Need and subject to a Child Protection Plan)
BFSWS The interview will be conducted by a qualified Social Worker who is not the allocated worker in order to offer some independence to the assessment unless there is a suitable professional that the child would prefer.
For a child or young person ‘looked after’ by BFSWS
All Looked After Children should be able to have a representative from the independent advocacy service, The advocate’s role is to represent the child entirely and therefore where a young person requests to speak with an independent advocate present, this will be supported.
When a child or young person refuses an offer of an Independent Return Interview or refuses to engage in an Interview
Where children refuse to engage with the independent interviewer, a record of the offer and reasons for refusal should be recorded. 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.
Record of the Independent Return Interview
A record of the Independent Return interview should be made using the Authority pro forma. An Independent Return Interview should consider:
- Whether the provision of advice, information and support from the responsible Local Authority is sufficient to meet the child or young person’s needs;
- Whether it is appropriate to link the child or young person and/or their parents or cares with Early Help services and whether an Early Help Assessment should be undertaken by a professional working with the child or young person;
- Whether BFSWS (if not involved prior to the missing episode) should undertake an assessment of need;
- Whether the child or young person has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm and BFSWS should consider convening a Strategy Discussion. (This should be within 3 days).
- Where a child or young person who is interviewed is at risk or vulnerable to sexual exploitation – the CSE Risk Assessment tool should also be used within the Return Interview
- Whether the young person could be at risk of trafficking – consider a referral using the National Referral Mechanism.
- Whether the young person could be at risk of radicalisation, forced marriage or honor based violence
Information Sharing following an Independent Return Interview
As part of the Independent Return Interview, the child or young person and their parents or carers should be informed that the information from the meeting will be shared with relevant professionals, who will work with them to keep them safe unless there are reasons not to do so. If the child or young person, parent or carer refuses to consent to the information being shared, the interview should not progress. If consent is withdrawn at the end of the interview, consent to share information is not required if there is a sufficient safeguarding concern for the child or young person.
It is crucial that any information gained through this interview in relation to safeguarding, locations, intelligence etc is fed back to the Service Police. Information sharing at this stage is vital for future safeguarding and gives assistance to the Service Police should future missing episodes occur. Information from the Independent Return Interview must be sent to BFSWS/ICRS?
It is important that any refusal by the young person and / or their carers to either have a return interview or to the sharing of information with other agencies is also noted and considered as a concern for professionals to address.
Any personal confidential information, which could support the young person e.g. a referral to sexual health services, should be noted and an appropriate referral made.
Out of Hours response
5.3Upon location, if there is concern that a missing or absent child or young person may be at risk of harm if returned home, they should be referred to BFSWS
As far as is possible, BFSWS should follow National Guidance and make available an effective form of emergency accommodation for young people who need somewhere safe to go so they are not put at even greater risk and that this accommodation can be accessed at any time of the day or night. (Department for Education Guidance 2014). Police stations are not an appropriate place to accommodate children, even for a short time.
6.1Where a child or young person is missing for over 48 hours
If the child or young person has not been located within 48 hours, a multi-agency Strategy Discussion must be considered by BFSWS.
A Strategy Discussion should take place within 5 working days of the date of the child or young person going missing.
The Strategy Discussion should consider:
- Whether a Section 47 Child Protection Investigation should commence and whether immediate safeguarding action should be taken.
- If the child young person is thought to have travelled to another area whether to circulate their details to other Local Authorities and other agencies in that area;
- Notifying national authorities and agencies including social security, the benefits agency and child benefit agency;
- If there is cause to believe that the child / young person may be removed from BFG AOR jurisdiction any legal measures to be taken.
- Where a child or young person is Looked After, consideration may be given as to whether an early Looked After Review should be held to review the Care Plan for the child. It is the decision of the ICRS to then convene this meeting.
Where a child or young person is subject to a Child Protection Plan
If a child or young person who is missing or absent is subject to a Child Protection Plan, the BFSWS Social Worker must consult with Core Group members to consider the effectiveness of the current Child Protection Plan and decide and record whether to request of the Independent Chair an early Review Child Protection Conference.
Initial risk assessment for Looked After Children and young people
6.2If the child or young person appears likely to runaway, the BFSWS Social Worker will decide whether a risk assessment should take place. This will be within 1 week of the placement starting.
This should be completed:
- In foster homes by the child’s Social Worker.
The risk assessment should include:
- Parents/previous carers advice on what action should be taken if the child goes missing;
- Nature and level of risk if he / she goes missing;
- A risk assessment should always take place (if not already completed) after the first incidence of missing and should be subsequently updated by the Social Worker over time.
The child or young person should be told what will happen if they run away and preventative work should be considered from first placement. They should be given information leaflets and contact details of advocacy services or other services they can access or that can be accessed on their behalf.
Missing During External Activities
6.3Children or young people who go missing or absent while on a holiday or during out of placement activities must be reported as missing or absent by the senior member of staff who is responsible at that time for the child or young person, to:
- Arrange a search in the area where the child went missing or absent;
- Notify the Police (who will notify Police in the home area if needed);
- Notify BFSWS if out of hours.