8.25.2 Reporting All Children who Go Missing
Note that the police have adopted a revised definition of 'missing' with effect from 2013 - seeInterim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons (ACPO, 2013), which should be read in conjunction with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons (2010).
In September 2014 a link to the Revised Statutory Guidance on Children Who Run Away or Go Missing From Home or Care was added.
This procedure supplements the more detailed guidance contained in the Joint Policy for Children Missing in Sussex, and is designed to outline the action to be taken when a child goes missing from any setting.
The Joint Policy should be referred to for further details of:
Where the procedure refers to 'child' or 'children' these terms include young people under the age of 18 years.
Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character, or the context suggests the person may be the subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another.
Where the child's location or reason for absence is unknown and/or there is cause for concern for the child because of their vulnerability or there is a potential danger to the public. A child in this category must be reported to the police.
Children who become lost
Children who because of their age or due to a degree of intellectual impairment become separated from their carers, become temporarily disorientated and become missing as a result and would wish to be found. This is clearly very frightening and upsetting for all involved
The responsibility for responding to reports of children who go missing and undertaking enquires to locate them and ensure their return to a safe caring environment lies with the police.
Anyone may report a child as missing to the police; they do not have to be a parent, carer, or other relative. Any report of a missing child must be recorded by the police area receiving the report.
When a child or young person is missing from home or has become separated from their parents/carers, the priority must be to ensure the immediate safety of the child by finding them and returning them to their parents or carers, providing this does not place any child at greater risk of significant harm.
Where any professional becomes aware that a child is missing from home, and it appears that the child's parent or carer has not reported the matter to the police, they must themselves report the child as missing to the police.
In addition, professionals should always consider the potential safeguarding issues surrounding children who may either have been lost or missing, and whether these indicate a child has or is suffering abuse or neglect. Where appropriate, a referral should be made to children's social care.
Details of all children who go missing should routinely be passed to children's social care by the police, in order that any safeguarding issues can be considered.
Information to be made Available
When reporting to the police, the person taking the report will need the following information:
Informing the Media
The police are responsible for advising the media regarding children missing from home. Decisions to publicise will always be made in consultation with the parents or carers
The child should be given the opportunity to talk to someone independent of their family about their absence. In some instances this person could be a police officer. It may be however that the child would prefer to speak to a social worker or to an independent agency. When a child has been missing on more than one occasion, the return interview should always be conducted separately from the child's parents/carers.
Where an allegation of physical or sexual abuse is made or becomes evident, child protection procedures must be implemented and contact made immediately with the Safeguarding Investigations Unit or a referral made to children's social care.
If there is any suggestion that the child has been a victim or perpetrator of crime, consideration must be given to the securing evidence by police including by forensic examination. This should also include securing clothing and delaying washing/bathing in relevant cases. It must be remembered that all necessary permissions must be obtained from the child's parents and/or those with parental responsibility. It is essential to recognise that the welfare of the child is paramount and careful consideration must be given to the potential effects of such procedures on the child.