View Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures View Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures

2.4.3 Alerts

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Alerts Notification Procedure Flowchart

Revised Statutory Guidance concerning Children Who Run Away or Go Missing from Home or Care Department for Education January 2014.

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in September 2016. Section 5, Absent/Missing Children was updated to reflect the e-mail address has changed where alerts are sent. This is now the Management Information Unit (MIU) inbox for Children In Care missing 48 hours.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Policy Statement
  3. Procedure
  4. Category of Cases to be Alerted
  5. Absent/Missing Children
  6. Performance Monitoring of Alerts and its Relation to Wider District Risk Assessment Procedures
  7. Review

    Appendix 1: Alert Form

    Appendix 2: Alerts Notification Procedure Flowchart

    Appendix 3: Guidance on Issuing National Child Protection Alerts

    Appendix 4: National Alert Notification of a Missing Child


1. Introduction

This procedure sets out the minimum standard within Specialist Children's Services for reporting cases to senior managers. It aims to provide a clear and unambiguous process for sharing managerial accountability and supporting decision making in respect of cases of concern.


2. Policy Statement

The importance of sharing information and decision-making where there are cases of concern should not be underestimated. It is fundamental for cases of concern to be reported to senior managers at the earliest opportunity when it becomes clear that the case constitutes a level of concern that needs to be reported. Case alerting ensures a level of shared accountability as well as enabling other processes to be put into place where actions are required.


3. Procedure

It is the responsibility of Team Managers and Supervisors to ensure that all cases of concern are reported to the relevant Integrated Service Manager or Children and Young People’s Service Manager. Deciding which cases meet the criteria for reporting to the senior manager through the alert process is a matter of professional judgement. The following procedure aims to provide some guidance about the types of cases of concern that should be reported through the alerts process.

This procedure also applies to staff within the Disabled Children’s Service and Care Leavers Service. Reporting will be through the relevant operational and County Manager within those services, alongside the Area Practice Development Officer, within the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Unit. The Alert Form is at Appendix 1: Alert Form. The alert notification procedure is outlined in a flow chart see Appendix 2: Alerts Notification Procedure Flowchart.


4. Category of Cases to be Alerted

The categories set out below are not exhaustive and must not preclude the reporting of other cases that are not outlined, that may be considered to be of concern or require shared decision making. The Service Manager will use their judgment to forward the Alert to the Assistant Director who will use their discretion to bring the Alert to the attention of the Director of Specialist Children’s Services and the Assistant Director of Safeguarding and Quality Assurance.

  • Where a child has died in unexpected circumstances;
  • Suffered severe injury and is open to Specialist Children’s Services;
  • Referral/case which may receive media interest and needs to be brought to the attention of senior management;
  • Case which indicates organised/large scale abuse;
  • Serious incident involving child/young person in a residential/foster placement/KCC unit;
  • Child In Need / Child subject to Child Protection plan missing;
  • Child subject to child protection plan missing National Alert required;
  • Kent Child in Care (including Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) Missing.

Additional Reporting:

Notification to Ofsted

Alerts may require further reporting through other mechanisms, for example when a serious incident occurs, which may need to be notified to Ofsted; this will be undertaken by the Assistant Director of Safeguarding and Quality Assurance. In the absence of the Assistant Director this would be delegated to the Service Manager, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance and not to District staff.

Notification to Ofsted is required when a Child in Care dies, a child suffers death or serious harm in a children’s home, a child suffers serious harm, death or serious injury where there is likely to be major public concern (i.e. the child is subject to a Child Protection Plan/Child in Need Plan and a Serious Case Review is possible), or where there are serious concerns about the conduct of a member of staff.

If the alert requires a notification to Ofsted, a standardised template needs to be completed. You should consult with the Practice Development Officer for your area in order to ensure that this is completed.

Child Death

Where a Priority One alert is completed in respect of an unexpected child death (where a child or young person open to Specialist Children’s Services has died unexpectedly, or where the death necessitates a referral being made due to concerns) the Form A Notification of a Child Death should also be completed in order to notify Kent Safeguarding Children Board (KSCB) of the death and Unexpected Death of a Child procedures followed (see Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children Board, Unexpected Death of a Child Procedure).


5. Absent/Missing Children

Young people who go missing from home or care are a particularly vulnerable group who face a number of risks. Running away may be a sign that something is wrong in the child's life and a response must be made quickly to safeguard them. It is vital that we have a robust system in place to ensure that we record accurately when children are missing, why they go missing and what happens when they return, so that we can protect them and prevent them from becoming socially excluded.

This guidance aims to ensure that when children go missing we record accurately and inform senior managers appropriately through the Alerts process. The procedures in relation to Safeguarding children who run away and go missing are outlined in the Kent Safeguarding Children's Board (KSCB) Procedures Manual. The Kent Safeguarding Children's Board (KSCB) definition in the missing children protocol clarifies which children should be identified as missing.

A missing person is a child or young person under 18yrs old whose whereabouts are unknown, whatever the circumstances of disappearance. He or she will be considered missing until located and his or her wellbeing, or otherwise, established. Social Workers should therefore identify any child or young person subject to a Child In Need, Child Protection Plan or a Child or Young Person in Care as missing in these circumstances. 

There are various different terms which are used in relation to missing children: Statutory Guidance On Children Who Run Away or Go Missing from Home or Care (January 2014) uses the following definitions:

Missing Child:

  • A child reported as missing to the police by their family or carers.

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 are not known.

Away from Placement Without Authorisation:

  • A Looked After child whose whereabouts are known but who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the police.

Young Runaway:

  • A child who has run away from their home or care placement, or feels they have been forced or lured to leave.

The Police (ACPO Interim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons  (2013)) categorise children as either Missing or Absent.

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 police classification of a person as ‘Missing’ or ‘Absent’ will be based on on-going risk assessment. Note that Absent within the police definition would not include those defined as Away from Placement Without Authorisation above: a child whose whereabouts are known would not be treated as either ‘Missing’ or ‘Absent’ under the police definitions.

Police will not be sent to cases where children/young people are defined as being ‘absent’. Instead the onus will be on care providers to take steps to locate the child/young person, with monitoring by the police and escalation to ‘missing’ if there is a change to the circumstances that has increased the level of risk. It is expected that all reasonable steps should be taken by care providers to locate the child/young person prior to making a report to the police. Where they remain absent, and the care provider feels that they may be at risk of harm, then a report should be made to the police. Unauthorised Absences must be carefully monitored and kept under review.

Police will attend reports of ‘missing’ children/young people’.

For children and young people looked after by Specialist Children's Services, who go missing, consideration should be given to whether their situation relates to an unauthorised absence rather than a missing episode. The Kent Safeguarding Children Board Procedures state that an unauthorised absence is when the Child in Care’s whereabouts are known or thought to be known but unconfirmed; they are not missing and may instead may be considered as absent without authorisation from their placement. This criterion should also be applied to children subject to a Child In Need or Child Protection Plan who go missing to avoid unnecessary alerting when the child’s whereabouts is known.

For children who are subject to a Child Protection/Child In Need Plan:

The completed Alert for Child Protection or Child In Need cases should be forwarded to the Service Manager who will quality assure the Alert to ensure that all necessary actions have been taken to locate the missing person and dates of any strategy or risk management meetings planned are outlined in the Alert and forward it to the Safeguarding Unit Alerts inbox and the Area Assistant Director. It is at the Assistant Director's discretion to notify the Director of Specialist Children’s Services.

If the Alert concerns a missing child subject to a Child Protection Plan and a National Alert is required, an agreement to issue a national Alert will need to be sought from the Service Manager, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance.

On receipt of an Alert regarding a missing child, the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Unit will contact the district and offer appropriate support and advice as necessary. This may include a recommendation to convene an Internal Risk Management Meeting as a means of ensuring a shared/collaborative approach to managing risk.

It is important to recognise that case Alerts may need to be re-assessed in the context of ongoing changes within the case and any significant changes should be reflected in an updated Alert. A de-alert should also be completed when appropriate.

The missing/found date should be updated on Liberi and return interview completed within 72 hours.

Additional process for alerting children who go missing and are subject to a Child Protection Plan:

Children who go missing when they are subject to a Child Protection Plan should be made subject to an Alert and the Management Information Unit should be informed so that Liberi is amended with the date missing and the date found.

If a child (including an unborn baby) subject to a Child Protection Plan, is missing from the local authority area and remains missing for any length of time, the criteria set out in the guidance on issuing National Alerts in Appendix 3 should be considered.

If the Alert concerns a missing child subject to a Child Protection Plan and a National Alert is required, you will need to complete the National Missing Child Alert Template and agreement to issue a National Alert will need to be sought from the Service Manager, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance.

Process for alerting Kent Children and Young People in Care who go missing (including Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children):

For Children in Care (CIC)

The completed Alert for Children In Care who go missing should be forwarded to the Service Manager. Consideration must be given to completion of an Alert when a child has been designated as an unauthorised absence and requires senior management action. The Social Worker must ensure that the circumstances the child went missing in, and the actions taken to locate and manage their safe return, are outlined clearly on the Alert Form.

The Service Manager should quality assure the Alert to ensure that all necessary actions have been taken to locate the missing person and dates of any strategy or risk management meetings planned are outlined in the Alert and forwarded to the appropriate Area Assistant Director.

The Social Worker must ensure that the child has been reported as a missing person to Police and Out of Hours. The Area Assistant Director should quality assure the Alert and forward the Alert to the Director of Specialist Children’s Services and the Management Information Unit (MIU) inbox, for Children In Care missing 48 hours, and forwarded to the appropriate area Practice Development Officer and the Service Manager, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance.

The Practice Development Officer will quality assure the Alert and will make contact with the district to offer appropriate support and guidance as necessary. This may include a recommendation to consider convening an internal risk management meeting/strategy meeting as a means of ensuring a shared/collaborative approach to managing risk.

The districts will forward the amended Alert which will include any updates, i.e. actions taken, meetings held, etc. back to the Safeguarding Unit Alerts Inbox. A de-alert should also be completed when appropriate.

The Director of Specialist Children’s Services will decide whether any children missing from care should be brought to the attention of the Corporate Director and the Lead Member.

The missing/found date should be updated on Liberi and a return interview completed within 72 hours.


6. Performance Monitoring of Alerts and its Relation to Wider District Risk Assessment Procedures

On receipt of an alert within the safeguardingunitalerts@kent.gov.uk inbox, the area Practice Development Officer will contact the district and offer appropriate support and advice as necessary, this may include a recommendation to convene an internal risk management meeting as a means of ensuring a shared/collaborative approach to managing risk.

Each Service Management Team should have a process in place for reviewing their current alerts. All alerts should be sent to the safeguardingunitalerts@kent.gov.uk inbox where a record will be kept of both the number and types of cases alerted. The Children in Care missing children information will be reported on a weekly basis by the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Unit, identifying any trends/themes for consideration by the Area Management Team.


7. Review

It is important to recognise that case Alerts may need to be re-assessed in the context of ongoing changes within the case. On this basis, all Alerts should be kept under continuous review and form part of the normal risk management process within teams.

Significant changes in a case, which result in changes to the level of risk (such as an increase or reduction in risk, or perhaps resolution in relation to the risk), should be reflected in an updated Alert. The relevant Practice Development Officer will be responsible for reviewing Alerts with regard to the ongoing need or not for an Alert, and as such will make contact with the relevant Team Manager/Social Worker to gain an update to inform the decision making.


Appendix 1: Alert Form

Click here to view Appendix 1: Alert Form.


Appendix 2: Alerts Notification Procedure Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 2: Alerts Notification Procedure Flowchart.


Appendix 3: Guidance on Issuing National Child Protection Alerts

Basic Principles

  • National Alerts are issued on children (including unborn babies) who are subject to a Child Protection Plan or are the subjects of formal inter-agency Child Protection Plans and who go missing from their Local Authority area;
  • Each National Alert notification should be subject to the simple threshold test outlined below (see notification threshold);
  • The National Alerts notification system is from Child Protection Custodian to Child Protection Custodian (or Designated Officer). It should not simply be an administrative task;
  • When issuing a National Alert it is essential for an alert to have been raised through the Service Manager to the Service Manager, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance and in accordance with Kent Specialist Children’s Services Alerts Procedure.  

Missing Children in Care

The national child protection alerts system should NOT be used as a missing person’s alerts process for vulnerable adults, unaccompanied asylum seekers or Children in Care who go missing.

In exceptional circumstances notifications of missing Children in Care can be issued, subject to the test below.

The Process to Follow to Issue a National Alert

  1. Social workers must complete the Notification of Missing Kent Child Subject to a Child Protection Plan template (see Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance, Alerts). This template should include sufficient written information to enable the individual case threshold decision to be made and to issue an Other Local Authority (OLA) alert notification;
  2. Once complete the Notification should be sent through the Service Manager and Practice Development Officer in the relevant area, who will quality assure the document to make sure that the correct information is included;
  3. Once the Service Manager has checked the notification they must send to the Service Manager, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance for approval;
  4. The Service Manager, Safeguarding and Quality Assurance will be responsible for signing off the National Alert and forwarding this through to Management Information so that it can be cascaded across the national Custodian/Designated officer list. 

The Process to Follow to End a National Alert

  1. When children are located a national “found” notification should follow. If the children are not located, a new notification should be issued at 6 monthly intervals, giving the date that the child/children originally went missing. The Practice Development Officer, in the area the children originate from should ensure that this process is completed;
  2. If 12 months elapses and an alert is still current, but no follow up notification has been received, the Other Local Authority Lead Officers for Child Protection will delete the alert from their systems.

Notification Thresholds

  1. Are the family really missing?

    If they are known to be in a particular locality, but their address is not known, this does not constitute a national alert;
  2. How do you know that the child/family is missing, and for how long?

    Social Workers should exclude the possibility that the family are temporarily absent/ missing from their address. Are they staying with family/friends or away on holiday? Do friends/neighbours/family believe that they are “missing”? Is a parent in custody? If they have not been seen for several days, the threshold has not yet been met. Do the police have any information? Has the social worker contacted all local key agencies to check if anyone knows where the family are? Until the social worker can verify that they have made reasonable attempts to locate them, and at least three weeks have elapsed, the family should not be the subject of the national alerts notification system.

Exceptional Alerts

N.B. The notification thresholds given above must first be satisfied.

  1. Children who have disappeared immediately before, during or immediately following a section 47 investigation of serious allegations of significant harm where the Designated Officer considers that there is evidence of sufficient danger to justify a national alert notification;
  2. Children on a Care Order who are deemed to be in danger because they have been abducted by a parent/individual who poses a significant risk of harm to the child and whose whereabouts are not known;
  3. Children accommodated following significant child protection concerns who are deemed to be in danger because they have been removed without notice by a parent/individual who poses a significant risk of harm to the child and whose whereabouts are not known.


Appendix 4: National Alert Notification of a Missing Child

Click here to view Appendix 4: National Alert Notification of a Missing Child (found in the Forms/Signs of Safety Practice Guidance of this manual).

End