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4.4.1 Brighton and Hove Policy on Missing Children

This chapter deals with the Policy regarding Missing Children, its aims and core principals, and should be read in conjunction with Brighton and Hove Missing Children Practice Guidance.

Note: the chapter does not deal with ‘missing families’.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care (2014)

National Police Missing Persons Guidelines

RELEVANT LOCAL POLICIES AND GUIDANCE

Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures, Joint Policy for Children Missing in Sussex

Sussex Police Missing Children Reporting Procedure

This should be read in conjunction with the Missing Children Practice Guidance documents which sets out guidance staff working in the 3 key areas below:

AMENDMENT

This chapter was revised in November 2018, to note changes in return interviews, noting statutory guidance and sign posting the procedure to One Space. (See Section 8, Arrangements for Return Interviews and Who Offers Them).


Contents

  1. Aims
  2. Key Relevant National Policy and Guidance
  3. Statement of Intent
  4. Key Practice Principles for Brighton and Hove Staff of Working with Vulnerable Missing Young People
  5. Understanding Why Children and Young People Go Missing
  6. Assessing Risk: Summary
  7. Classifications of Missing Children and Young People
  8. Arrangements for Return Interviews and Who Offers Them
  9. Information Sharing and Notification
  10. Single Points of Contact in the City Council relating to Missing Children

    Appendix 1: Procedure for When a Child / Young Person is Missing from Home or Care Flowchart


1. Aims

The integrated policy on Missing Children has 3 main aims:

  • To set out clearly the Brighton and Hove multi-agency response to children and young people who go missing;
  • To raise the profile and priority of missing children across the Council and partner agencies;
  • To define the routes by which all responsible agencies in the council and outside share information and work together to respond effectively when children go missing.

Responsible agencies are:

  • Police;
  • Children’s Social Work staff;
  • Foster carers and residential staff;
  • Health;
  • Education;
  • Youth Services and the Youth Employability Team (YES);
  • Voluntary and Independent Sector Organisations;
  • Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB);
  • Youth Offending Service.


2. Key Relevant National Policy and Guidance

Guidance:


3. Statement of Intent

Brighton and Hove City Council recognises that children and young people missing from home, care or education face multiple significant risk factors.

Risks may include physical harm, Sexual Exploitation, substance misuse, poor health and well being outcomes and involvement in criminal activities. Such a wide range of risk factors rarely coalesce around a specific group of children as much as they do around missing children.

The following points represent the expectations for this area of work:

  • All agencies are directed to work together to prevent, solve and follow-up the problems that contribute to children going missing from education, care and home;
  • All relevant agencies, organisations and carers are required to use their professional judgement to take any action they feel is necessary to protect the safety of the child, based on an assessment of risk and to report concerns to the responsible agency. They are also required to share data and intelligence where doing so is likely to promote the safety of the child and children more widely;
  • Staff in contact with the child must seek to understand the circumstances that trigger missing episodes.


4. Key Practice Principles for Brighton and Hove Staff of Working with Vulnerable Missing Young People

The Children’s Society Runaways Charter set out standards for Local Authorities in working with this very vulnerable group. There are six standards set out in their section on “How runaways should be treated”. These are as follows:

  • Be understanding, calm and relaxed with us;
  • Help us trust you and don’t judge us;
  • Be straightforward and honest with us;
  • Listen to us and take us seriously;
  • Explain things to us. Give us choices and don’t force us into making decisions we don’t understand;
  • Show us respect.

Brighton and Hove City Council accepts these standards and will also work to the following:

  • For children and young people who runaway regularly this is rarely, if ever, an irrational act. For those young people this makes sense in terms of the way they understand their lives and the people around them. Even if professionals have different views they should seek to understand the young person’s feelings and motivations in what they are doing;
  • This group of children and young people may also feel estranged from their family life and those around them, including professionals. Services will be provided in a way that seeks to build rapport and trust with them;
  • Children and young people will be involved as much as possible in the plan to address their problems;
  • It is acknowledged that the young person could be involved in criminal activity or be the victim of crime, or both. Staff will show understanding and acknowledge that it is difficult for young people to talk about this;
  • Agencies should attempt to find out the risks faced by a young person when missing. Assumptions that young people are safe when missing, based on previous behaviour, may be inaccurate. Staff should avoid such assumptions in their practice;
  • The traffic light risk grading system should be escalated during a missing episode as necessary, taking into account the length of time the child has been missing and out of contact;
  • Repeat runaway incidents should not be viewed as low risk and should be assessed and subject to an intervention plan;
  • There is likely to be overlap between children missing from home and from education. Information should be shared at each stage between relevant staff regarding the tier of concern in each area;
  • Locating missing children and young people is the responsibility not just of the police but also of parents, carers, care workers, social workers and other professionals. Staff should assist in phoning known numbers and visiting known addresses;
  • Staff should work closely with voluntary CSE agencies regarding all issues of sexual exploitation.


5. Understanding Why Children and Young People Go Missing

Children may go missing from home or care for a number of reasons, such as:

  • Trying to protect themselves from abuse, including domestic violence;
  • Trying to protect themselves from bullying;
  • As a result of peer pressure. Peer pressure can re-enforce the risk-taking decisions made by young people and may create norms for risky behaviour;
  • Being afraid, feeling unable to cope or disconnected from the adults around them; they may feel failures or not valued. This may not have been apparent to adults close to them;
  • They may have been enticed to go missing; been abducted; or been “thrown out” by the parents / carers;
  • There are particular ‘push’ or ‘pull’ factors. Young people may run from home due to negative factors or to a peer group to whom they feel a sense of belonging or loyalty.


6. Assessing Risk: Summary

In assessing the significance of a child’s absence, the following should be taken into consideration:

  • The age of the child;
  • The legal status of the child;
  • Previous behaviour and history;
  • The emotional needs of the child, e.g. whether there has been any variation in their mood or whether they have expressed any intention to harm themselves or others;
  • Behaviour of the child;
  • Mental and physical health needs;
  • Whether the child has been the victim or perpetrator of violent, homophobic and/or racist incidents prior to disappearance;
  • Whether the child has been subjected to bullying;
  • Is the child thought to be a subject to crime in progress, e.g. abduction?
  • Whether the child is perceived to be running to or running away from someone / something;
  • The risk of offending;
  • The risk that the child may be targeted for sexual exploitation.

Please see Sussex Police Missing Children Reporting Procedure.


7. Classifications of Missing Children and Young People

Please see Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures, Joint Policy for Children Missing in Sussex.


8. Arrangements for Return Interviews and Who Offers Them

Return interviews are a key way to find out the risks children and young people have been exposed to when missing as well as to listen to their concerns and demonstrate concern for their welfare. If the young person is able to engage with this it may help prevent such situations arising in future, and may focus on the help the young person needs. All runaway behaviour is a reaction to circumstances that trouble young people. This may make missing children and young people vulnerable to exploitation.

However children and young people may not feel able to talk openly to their statutory key worker, to the police or to other authority figures.

Statutory Guidance 2014 states that when a child is found they should be offered an independent return interview.

Arrangements for Return Home Interviews (RHI) in Brighton and Hove are contained on One Space.


9. Information Sharing and Notification

Information sharing regarding vulnerable missing children is critical in order to identify their potential whereabouts and keep them safe.

The Home Office “Safeguarding Foreign National Children Who Go Missing” guidelines states that the Home Office should be notified if children and young people who are seeking asylum in the UK and have a pending application go missing from care for extended periods.

The Brighton and Hove City Council Children’s Services guidance for information sharing encourages the following in order that information is shared appropriately and proportionately:

See Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures, Part 2 Information Sharing and Confidentiality.

  • Consider first what objective is being sought by seeking or sharing information and whether this corresponds to the overall objectives in the plan for the child;
  • Discussion should be had with parents and carers about whom information is being shared explaining why, unless to do so would create an unacceptable risk and/or is part of a current police investigation. Informed consent should be sought. This may also apply to older adolescents in their own right;
  • If parental consent is not given then a practitioner with their manager should consider whether there are grounds for over-riding the parents’ views (only in the case of safeguarding concerns);
  • Information should be shared only if necessary, and on a need to know basis. A record should be kept of these decisions.

Weekly Missing Meetings

A weekly meeting is held which discusses all missing children regardless of the level of risk. This is chaired by a manager from Children’s Social Work and includes representatives from Sussex Police, Missing People, Front Door for Families and the Adolescent Pod. The Chair will record the discussion and actions on Carefirst.


10. Single Points of Contact in the City Council relating to Missing Children

The 2014 Statutory Guidance states that each Local Authority should have a Single Point of Contact, (SPOC), who shapes policy and ensures staff guidance is clear in this high risk area of practice.

The SPOC for Brighton and Hove is the Children’s Social Work Head of Service with practice lead for Looked After Children. There is also a practice lead for children Missing from Education: this is the Children Missing Education / EOTAS Officer.

The SPOC and Practice Lead meet on a regular basis to identify patterns and trends and to ensure robust arrangements are in place.


Appendix 1: Procedure for When a Child / Young Person is Missing from Home or Care Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Procedure for When a Child / Young Person is Missing from Home or Care Flowchart.

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