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4.5.2 Responding to Children who are Missing

RELATED CHAPTERS

Alerts Procedure

Kent Safeguarding Children's Board Procedures Manual, Children Missing from Home and Care Procedure

RELATED GUIDANCE

Statutory Guidance on Children who run away and go missing from Home or Care, Department for Education, 2014

AMENDMENT

In June 2017, Section 4.4, When a child and young person previously open or not known to Specialist Children’s Services goes missing was added.


Contents

1. Introduction and Principles Underlying Work with Missing Children
2. Definitions
3. Assessing the Situation When a Child Goes Missing
4. Planning For and Responding To Missing Incidents
  4.1 Institutional Abuse
  4.2 Monitoring School Attendance
  4.3 Immediate Action on Discovering a Child is Missing and Notification of a Missing Child to the Police
  4.4 When a Child and Young Person Previously Open or Not Known to Specialist Children’s Services Goes Missing
  4.5 When a Looked After Child Goes Missing
  4.6 Social Work Response
  4.7 The Police Response
  4.8 Out of Hours Team (OOH)
  4.9 Residential Home and Semi-Independent Response
5. Out of Area Placements
6. Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) who go Missing from Care
7. Children who may have been Trafficked from Abroad
8. Monitoring and Review of UASC Who Remain Missing for longer than 28 Days
9. “Care Leaver” or “Former Relevant Child” who goes missing from the Leaving Care Service
10. Alerts Process for a Child who is Missing (including UASC)
11. Recording
12. Procedures on Return and the Return Interview
  Appendix 1: Flow Chart


1. Introduction and Principles Underlying Work with Missing Children

This procedure and guidance is applicable to children who are:

Principles underlying work with Missing Children

  • Children who go missing who are known to Specialist Children's Services (SCS) may place themselves and others at risk. The reasons for missing episodes are both varied and complex and cannot be viewed in isolation from the home or current living circumstances and experience of care;
  • This procedure is to be used for all children known to SCS, including those in care, child in need and those placed with parents or guardians;
  • Children with additional vulnerabilities, including children at risk of child trafficking, child sexual exploitation, gang involvement and modern slavery, may require additional risk assessments to identify their immediate needs for support and to ensure appropriate action and plans to help keep them safe;
  • Every missing episode should have a proactive and consistent response from the professionals involved with that child, taking account of assessed risks. The safety and welfare of the child is always the paramount consideration and a missing child must be reported to the police;
  • It is important to be aware of the potential for professional complacency in making judgements about a child’s missing behaviour, particularly (for example) when they go missing on a frequent basis. Any child who goes missing, should be considered as vulnerable and patterns should be assessed in the context of all known and potential risks;
  • When reporting a missing child to the police, the referrer (parent/carer/social worker/other) must inform them of all known, assessed or likely risks;
  • It is expected that SCS and the police will work together on a coordinated plan to locate and recover the child and that this fully involves all relevant professionals involved with the child. This includes that information about the child going missing be shared with those professionals at the earliest opportunity;
  • Careful consideration should be given to ensuring relevant professionals are invited when a Strategy Meeting, Risk Management Meeting or other meeting is held in respect of either the Missing episode or concerns about risk to the child;
  • Relevant information and intelligence gathered from a Return Interview must also be shared with key professionals and agencies working with the child, so as to ensure that on-going risk is understood and minimised;
  • Missing episodes should always be discussed and considered as part of the Social Worker supervision process.


2. Definitions

There are various terms which are used in relation to missing children.

Statutory Guidance on Children who Run Away or go Missing from Home or Care (DfE 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 (for example 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 SCS 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;
  • 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;
  • Unauthorised Absence: Kent police do not use absence as a missing category, however, social workers from time to time, depending on their knowledge and assessment of the situation of the missing child may use this term. The term is used for a child for whom there are no immediate concerns regarding their safety or welfare, after the agreed risk assessment has been carried out;
  • Absconder: An absconder is a child who is subject to criminal proceedings and who is on remand and/or subject to bail conditions and whom the Police may arrest without warrant. Looked After Children who are missing without the permission of the responsible person and who are either a Ward of Court, subject to a Care Order or Emergency Protection Order may be compelled to return to SCS care;
  • Missing Person: A child who is resident in a semi-independent placement, A Registered Children’s Home or placed with carers, who has not returned at the time their carers reasonably expected them to, and who is immediately vulnerable through age or risk factors.


3. Assessing the Situation When a Child Goes Missing

In assessing the significance of a child’s Missing episode, social workers, other professionals and carers should consider the definitions above. All Missing notifications are channelled through the Missing Coordinators in the Central Referral Unit (CRU). Social Workers should consider all available information in conjunction with their professional judgement and in consultation with their Team Managers, to determine the level of risk or concern about the missing child (low, medium or high risks/concerns). Analysis should include:

  • Actions already agreed and incorporated within the child’s Care Plan, Child in Need Plan, Child Protection Plan, Placement Agreement Plan or other assessment reports;
  • Return Interview analysis;
  • The age of the child;
  • The legal status of the child and circumstances of their care status if LAC (Emergency Protection Order, Care Order, S20, whether remanded or with curfew conditions, etc);
  • Previous behaviour patterns (including missing history and patterns of absence; substance misuse; anti-social or criminal behaviour; etc);
  • The child’s state of mind and perceived risk Influence from peers or others outside of the home;
  • Whether the child is perceived as running to or from someone, or to or from a situation. This may include those who are considered to be involved in gangs, vulnerable to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) or trafficking, or at risk of forced marriage;
  • Any physical or learning disabilities the child may have which increase vulnerability and risk;
  • Any other particular circumstances at the time of the incident;

It is essential that all plans made for the child (including placement plans and where a child changes placement) are reviewed and updated to take into account any new or emerging risks.


4. Planning For and Responding To Missing Incidents

For children allocated within SCS and prior to any LAC placement, social work staff, foster carers and residential care workers must consider and discuss the possibility and risks of the child going missing. The discussion should include the following and should be recorded on the child’s Case Notes, Case Summary, Risk Management Plan or Placement Plan on Liberi.

  • The likelihood of the child going missing, including any known triggers or relevant past behaviours;
  • The level of support/supervision required for the child, to minimise their risk of going missing;
  • The parent’s/carer’s thoughts on what action they feel should be taken if the child goes missing (including when/how they wish to be notified of the child going missing);
  • The considered level of risk to the child if they go missing and on what this assessment is based;
  • The role of significant others (e.g. family members; significant family friends, etc) in keeping the child safe or contributing to risk.

This policy should be explained to all children (and their legal parent) where missing risk is a possibility, including what actions will be taken if he/she goes missing or leaves placement without permission. This should be done at a pace and manner appropriate to the child’s level of communication. The child should also be provided with the KSCB leaflet -TEMPTED TO RUN AWAY.

4.1 Institutional Abuse

Any persons or agency receiving a report from a child that they went missing because of abuse within a children’s home, semi-independent placement or from a foster or other professional carer, must immediately refer this information to CDT/OOH for consideration under Child Protection Procedures. Appropriate action must be taken to protect the child concerned and other children as necessary and in all such cases the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) must be informed.

4.2 Monitoring School Attendance

Looked After Children in Residential placements - The carer or the home’s Registered Manager (in conjunction with the care team) should monitor each child’s school attendance. Where there are concerns about a child going missing, the Registered Manager should initiate a Review in consultation with the Social Worker and IRO, taking account of any risk assessment, Personal Education Plan and Care Plan to locate and return the child as soon as possible and to consider safety planning around any future Missing episodes.

Children in Need or Subject to a Child Protection Plan - It is important to monitor school attendance and to identify any patterns of school absence that may be relevant understanding risk. Worries about the relevance of non-attendance to risks such as CSE, gang involvement, etc must be considered as part of child protection planning and where appropriate a Risk Management Meeting should be convened to discuss the specific individual risk response to the child.

4.3 Immediate Action on Discovering a Child is Missing and Notification of a Missing Child to the Police

When a child goes missing, it is necessary to initiate procedures which locate and encourage the child to return as quickly and safely as possible, while also ensuring the child is treated positively on their return.

Before notifying the Police, key persons first aware of the child’s absence (e.g. parents, residential staff, social worker and foster carers) should ensure they have taken all immediate reasonable and practical steps to establish the whereabouts or destination of the child. If there is information to suggest critical concern about the child’s safety or welfare (either at discovery of the child being missing or subsequently), Police should be contacted immediately.

Wherever possible, staff, parents or carers should physically search the locality for the child. However, in cases where there is a need to provide ongoing supervision for other children in their care, this may not be possible.

On notification to the Police that the child is missing, all available information should be shared, including known or perceived risks and vulnerabilities.

4.4 When a Child and Young Person Previously Open or Not Known to Specialist Children’s Services Goes Missing

The Missing Persons Co-ordinator at CRU receives missing and found notifications and checks the missing child status on Liberi. Where the child/young person is closed to SCS or not known, the Missing Person Co-ordinator will forward to Early Help & Preventative Services (EHPS) to action.

Every notification is initially screened by the EHPS Triage team who carry out a series of data system checks and complete a risk assessment before passing to the EHPS District team. Safeguarding concerns and information regarding any previous missing episodes are brought to the attention of the Triage Manager to determine if an IAR is required at this stage. If this is the case, an IAR is completed.

Where a child/young person and family is open to EHPS, the Early Help Worker will contact the family and child/young person to complete a return interview and agree actions to be taken.

If the child/young person and family is not open to EHPS, contact will be made with the family and child/young person to offer a return interview.

  • If there is no response to the telephone contact, a home visit will be carried out;
  • If there is still no response, a letter inviting the family and child/young person for a return interview will be delivered;
  • If the family and child/young person have not taken up the offer of a return interview and there are safeguarding concerns, an IAR will be completed.

If there are more than two missing episodes and the family and child/young person have not taken up previous offers for a return interview, an IAR will be completed, if appropriate.

EHPS follow the same principles as SCS when supporting young people who go missing, ensuring an appropriate plan is in place and liaising with other relevant professionals. The purpose of the return interview is the same as SCS, focused on meaningful engagement and discussion. The young person has the right to an independent interview, so the worker must consider whether they are best placed to conduct the interview and should always check this with the young person when they meet. All information is recorded on Liberi Missing Persons workspace.

4.5 When a Looked After Child Goes Missing

When a child goes missing from Care, it is expected that parents/carers/providers will ensure timely and appropriate actions are taken to safeguard the child.  Foster carers must always refer to the missing person guidance in the KCC Fostering Handbook My Foster Child is Missing and must contact their supervising social worker. However, they are also expected to conduct basic enquiries as outlined below. Where necessary, this will be supported by Social Workers or Out Of Hours before notifying the Police.

All carers/providers/parents should act to locate and to encourage the child to return as quickly and safely as possible, ensuring s/he is treated positively on return. Where there are concerns for the welfare of the missing child, carers should consider taking the following measures to try to locate them:

  • Search bedroom / accommodation / outbuildings/ vehicles;
  • Contact the child directly (e.g. via mobile number);
  • Contact friends and relatives where child may be (use social media where appropriate, to contact friends and ascertain whether the child has shared any clues as to their whereabouts – see KSCB social media guidance;
  • Contact school/college provision/employer;
  • Visit locations/premises that the child is known to frequent or where they were last seen or were thought to be going. Where there are people at an identified location who pose a significant threat of aggression or violence, it is important to consider personal safety before visiting, including the seeking of advice from the police.

If the child cannot be located or contacted, or concerns about their safety and welfare remain, this must be reported without further delay to the Police and/or the allocated Social Worker.

The child’s Independent Reviewing Officer should also be informed if the child is or has been missing from the placement.

4.6 Social Work Response

Where a child is reported as missing, social workers are expected to use their professional judgement supported by relevant assessment and available information, to determine the level of risk posed to the child. Specific considerations and action should be taken as follows:

  • Where it is deemed that there is imminent risk of harm to the child, the social worker, in consultation with the relevant Team Manager, must convene a Strategy Discussion not later than 24 hours from when the child went missing (KSCB policy);
  • In every situation where a child is determined to be Missing, consideration should be given to whether the child is at risk of significant harm and therefore, to whether a Strategy Discussion should be held;
  • When a child has been missing for over 48 hours, an alert form should be completed, whether they are a Looked-After Child or not; (see Forms Library);
  • Where it is assessed that there is no immediate risk of significant harm but the child remains missing, the Social Worker must facilitate a Risk Management Discussion/Meeting within a maximum of 72 hours of the child going missing, to explore all known and potential risks and to develop a Risk Minimisation Plan to recover or facilitate the return of the missing child;
  • Membership of the Risk Management Meeting should include all professionals/persons most able to provide information of relevance about the child’s missing behaviour or to contribute to an effective Risk Minimisation Plan for the child. It is likely that attendance will consist of professionals already known to the family and the family and friends safety network and should always include the Missing Person’s Liaison Officer. Where a key individual is unable to attend, their views should be sought in advance of and brought to the meeting by the Social Worker for the child;
  • The discussion or meeting will gather information and intelligence regarding the current and previous missing episodes, child’s behaviour and emotional state, vulnerability and other relevant factors. This will also include exploration of:
    • Current care circumstances of the child and likely possible whereabouts;
    • Patterns and frequency of missing episodes;
    • Age, health, disability, learning needs, gender, etc and whether these may be significant factors;
    • Additional vulnerabilities, including: CSE, trafficking, gang involvement, honour-based violence and modern slavery;
    • Known associates or networks;
    • Intelligence from the police and other relevant agencies.
  • In all cases, the Social Worker is required to use his/her professional judgement to determine the actions to be taken in consultation with other professionals, based on the assessed vulnerabilities;
  • If there has been no information on the child’s whereabouts within 5 days, a further Risk Management Meeting should be convened to discuss the ongoing plan of action to recover the missing child, including exploring the possibility of a media campaign and/or submitting a National Alert; (see Forms Library);
  • Where a child persistently goes missing (even for short periods of time), or where there is a worrying pattern of missing episodes, the team manager responsible for the child should liaise with the Missing Persons Liaison Officer and should consider convening a Risk Management Meeting to consider the level of risk and how this can be minimised. If it is known that the child is going missing with other children, any discussion and planning should consider the relevance of this and ensure that children’s plans are cross-referenced with each other and with appropriate intelligence. The CSE Team should also be made aware of the concern;
  • In addition to the above, the Risk Management Meeting should review and consider if it is appropriate to update the following:
    • Child’s Care Plan or Child In Need Plan (including expected response from parents/carers when the child goes missing);
    • Risk assessment (taking account of the child’s history of Missing episodes, known associates, local or specific Intelligence, and potential risk of CSE, trafficking, modern slavery or gang involvement);
    • C&F Assessment;
    • Relevant practice issues within the placement;
    • Actions required to minimise any future Missing episodes;
    • Discuss and agree whether a media and/or a National Alert should be issued.
  • For children subject to a Child Protection Plan, the Core Group should be reconvened following a Risk Management Meeting in order to ensure incorporation of identified risk and to agree response regarding the missing behaviour within the Plan. The expected response of the parent/carer when the child goes missing should be clearly outlined (including expectations around reporting).

4.7 The Police Response

Police nationally use the following definition of Missing: “anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located, and their well-being or otherwise confirmed” (College of Policing : Major Investigation & Public Protection : Missing Persons (2016)), and their response will be graded according to identified risk. As such it is essential that when making a referral to the police, all relevant known details and background are shared to inform this risk-assessment and subsequent decision-making about response. Where risk cannot be accurately assessed without active investigation, appropriate lines of enquiry will be set to gather further information and inform risk assessment.

The police will expect that in most situations, reasonable actions and searches to locate the child (as outlined elsewhere in this document) will be made by parents/carers, before reporting the child as missing.

Individuals whose whereabouts are known, will not be considered (within police terminology) as Missing, however if there are concerns about the child’s welfare, police officers will work within the local public protection procedures and with partner agencies, to ensure an appropriate safeguarding response is provided. This includes for children in care who are deemed to be ‘absent without authorisation’ (as defined within the Department for Education (2014) Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care).

Review of children who remain missing will be undertaken by the police within their procedures and in the light of all available and updated information about the missing episode and risk. It is important therefore, that any relevant new information about the child which may assist the police in their enquiries, is shared with them at the earliest opportunity. The police will inform SCS as and when they have updated information about the missing child.

Where a child is located by the police, they may seek to return them either with the child’s agreement or through the use of further legal steps, including where appropriate, Police Protection.

Should the Police Officer have any concern that the child’s safety or welfare is at risk, they will report this to the appropriate Police and/or SCS team in accordance with the local police and safeguarding procedures. Where child protection concerns are identified, the Police Child Protection Unit will be involved and may request a Strategy Meeting/Strategy Discussion under the KSCB Missing Children Policy and Procedures.  

4.8 Out of Hours Team (OOH)

The Out of Hours (OOH) Team should be advised of children either missing from placements or where there are concerns about missing behaviour, if action may be required from them outside of office hours.

When a missing child is located during out of office hours, the OOH Team will assess any immediate onward risk, protection and welfare needs and will make arrangements to return the child to placement/home. In circumstances involving a child responsible to another Local Authority, OOH will liaise with the out of area Local Authority’s Out of Hours Team, to arrange the safe return/return to placement of the child.

Where children are accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 and parental responsibility is solely held by either or both parents, it is important to notify those parent(s) of the child being missing or found, in accordance with any actions agreed within the child’s Care or Risk Minimisation Plan. Consultation with the parent(s) should also take place where possible, if there is a refusal from the child to return to the agreed placement.

4.9 Residential Home and Semi-Independent Response

The monitoring and reporting procedures for children missing from residential homes and semi-independent placements requires that discussion of risk and response should take place prior to the child being placed. Decisions and agreed actions in respect of missing behaviour must be included in the contractual agreement.

When a child in a residential or semi-independent placement goes missing, the key worker/residential staff will:

  • Notify SCS and the local Police in that area and record the allocated log number;
  • Notify a senior member of staff / the manager in the home;
  • Notify the child’s social worker at the earliest opportunity;
  • Institute a local search (as outlined in Section 4, Out of Hours Team (OOH)).

The senior person on duty in the Placement will be responsible for ensuring that the general procedures in relation to a missing child are followed.

Ongoing communication regarding the missing child will be maintained between the Placement and the Police local to where the child went missing.


5. Out of Area Placements

When a child is placed outside of their Local Authority area, the responsible Authority must make sure that the child has access to the services they need. Notification of the placement must be made to the host Authority and other specified services. See Out of Area Placement.

 If children placed out of their Local Authority into Kent go missing, Kent’s Missing Procedure should be followed, in addition to complying with other processes that are specified in the policy of the host Local Authority. It is possible that the child will return to the area of the responsible Authority, so it is essential that liaison between the Police and professionals in both Authorities is well managed and co-ordinated. A notification process for Missing and Away From Placement Without Authorisation episodes should be agreed between responsible and host Local Authorities.


6. Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) who go Missing from Care

Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) who go missing from care, particularly soon after arrival, should be considered especially vulnerable to trafficking.  Specialist Children’s Services, in partnership with other agencies, support UASC who are Children in Care up until the age of 18 and those who become Care Leavers post 18. Social Workers must take into particular account the vulnerabilities of those suspected of being trafficked including their need for safe accommodation, specialist support and protection. For further guidance, refer to the SCS UASC policy.

Notification through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) must be considered for children where there are concerns of trafficking and referral must be made where assessment of risk indicates the child meets referral criteria. A case note (type of contact: UKHCT) must then be added to the child’s Liberi file, confirming the date that NRM referral  was made. Where a decision is reached not to refer a child, the rationale must be clearly recorded on the child’s file, both as a Case Note and within the Case Summary for the Missing Episode.


7. Children who may have been Trafficked from Abroad

Some looked after children who are unaccompanied asylum seeking children or other migrant children, may have been trafficked into the UK and may remain under the influence of their traffickers even while they are Looked After. These children are at high risk of going missing, sometimes within a few hours of arrival. Unaccompanied migrant or asylum seeking children who go missing immediately after becoming looked after should be treated as potential victims of trafficking and NRM notification should be made (see above).

Social workers must use information and intelligence gained about the child’s passage to the UK, the child’s story on arrival and any information about their behaviour and demeanour, to assess the likelihood of a child going missing and to immediately put support in place to minimise such risk. These children may have been trafficked into Modern Slavery. 

In conducting assessment, it will be necessary for the Local Authority to work in close co-operation with Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) and immigration staff familiar with patterns of trafficking into the UK. The following links and resources should be considered when assessing and risk and in sharing information:


8. Monitoring and Review of UASC Who Remain Missing for longer than 28 Days

When an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child is missing for 28 days, a Risk Management Meeting must be held and attended by appropriate senior staff from both SCS and the Police. This meeting should elicit a clear statement of the actions being taken in respect of the missing child and managers should satisfy themselves that all that should be done to try and locate the child is being done.

Whilst the child remains missing, his/her case should be identified as “open” on LIBERI, and must be reviewed on a monthly basis until 6 months, when this will reduce to 3 monthly intervals.

"When to Review" Table

When to Review Action to be Taken By Whom
Weekly review – before 28 days Risk Management Meeting to be convened and chaired by the Service Manager. Social Worker, senior police and Service Manager
Monthly Review Child missing after 28 days up to 6 months. If child not found, case to remain open on manager's work tray. Social Worker and Team Manager
6 Monthly Audit Audit to ensure that all actions are being taken to recover the child, in light of any new information / events. Service Manager
3 Monthly review 3 monthly review to continue after the initial 6 monthly audit with regards to any new information. Social Worker and Team Manager
6 Monthly Audit Audit to ensure that all actions are being taken to recover the child, in light of any new information/events At this point the Service Manager should make a judgement whether to continue monitoring on a 3 or 6 monthly basis. Service Manager

Children reported as missing, will be reviewed by the Public Protection Unit on a regular basis. By definition, a child reported missing from local authority care will be categorised by the Police as requiring special consideration. In this case, the Police National Computer (PNC) will automatically update the Police National Missing Persons Bureau.


9. “Care Leaver” or “Former Relevant Child” who goes missing from the Leaving Care Service

Where a young person remains ‘missing’ up to the age of 21 years, the Local Authority will retain responsibility to the child as a Former Relevant Child and will provide appropriate assistance should the child be found or again present, seeking support as a former Looked After Child.

Where a child has not been found by their 18th birthday, they should continue to be reviewed by the Leaving Care Team on a monthly basis until they have been missing for a period of 6 months, thereafter reducing to 3-monthly review intervals. Review meetings are chaired by the County Manager. The meeting will include the child’s Personal Adviser (PA) and other agencies where appropriate. The meeting will review current information and ensure that the Pathway Plan is updated within the 6 monthly timeframe, that the Missing Person Template is updated and that the risk assessment is also updated in light of any new information from the police, United Kingdom Visa and Immigration Service (UKVIS) and other relevant agencies.

Where a Former Relevant Child goes missing and there is significant concern about their wellbeing, then the Leaving Care Service will contact Adult Safeguarding and will work within the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Adults Policy, Protocols and Practitioner Guidance for Kent and Medway.

Where a Former Relevant Child is missing from home and/or has not been in contact with their Personal Adviser or other members of the Leaving Care Service for the previous 3 months, then this case will be brought to the Missing Person Meeting, where a further reintegration plan will be set and agreed. This will continue to be monitored via the Missing Person Meeting until the child is located and/or contact resumed.


10. Alerts Process for a Child who is Missing (including UASC)

Please refer to the Alerts Procedure.

The completed Alert for a Child who goes missing should be forwarded to the Service Manager. Consideration must also be given to completion of an Alert when a child has been designated under Unauthorised Absence and requires senior management action. The social worker must ensure that the circumstances within which the child went missing and the actions being taken to locate and manage their safe return, are outlined clearly on the Alert form. (See Forms Library).

The Service Manager should quality assure the Alert, to ensure that all necessary actions have been taken to locate the missing person and that 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 a child missing for 48 hours has been reported as a missing person to Police and Out of Hours. The Area Assistant Director should quality assure the Alert and forward to the Safeguarding Alert Box, where they will be sent to the appropriate Practice Development Officer for further oversight.

The Social Worker and district management will be responsible for amending the Alert with updated information i.e.( actions taken, meetings held, etc.). A de-alert should also be completed at an appropriate stage when concern has diminished.

The Director of SCS will decide whether any child missing from care should be brought to the attention of the Corporate Director and the Lead Member.

An alert will also be completed by the 18 Plus service in respect of any Care Leaver who goes missing where the Team Manager or Service Manager has concern over their well being.


11. Recording

In all cases, social workers must use the Missing Persons Referral Pathway on Liberi, including the Missing Case Note, to record all activities on the Missing episode. This will include the child’s return, a full record of all actions taken and messages received/given.

The Social Worker must complete a Case Summary specific to the Missing episode within the Missing Pathway which should be updated on a regular basis. The summary should reflect activity that is ongoing to locate and safeguard the child.

If a notification is made through the National Referral Mechanism (re trafficking concerns), a case note (type of contact UKHCT) must be added to the child’s Liberi file, confirming the date that NRM was made. Where a decision is reached not to refer a child, the rationale must be clearly recorded on the child’s file, both as a Case Note and within the Case Summary for the Missing Episode.

When a child goes missing or has episodes of missing behaviour and a Risk Minimisation Plan has been drawn up, this should be clearly cross-referenced within the child’s Case Notes and Case Summary, so that it can be quickly located by SCS staff needing to access the Liberi record.

Foster carers should record action taken around the missing episode in their diary. They should share this information with the child’s Social Worker or the Team Manager to enable a record to be made in the Missing Person Referral Pathway on LIBERI.

Once the child is located or found, records should clearly include details of where the child was found, any reasons the child has given for going missing and any actions taken in light of those reasons. This information is important for any future missing from care episodes.

A record of the Return Interview (see Section 12, Procedures on Return and the Return Interview) should be maintained in the Missing Person Referral Pathway on Liberi. New and relevant information gained from the Return Interview with the child should also be added to the child’s Case Summary and should be considered with regard to any necessary changes to the child’s Risk Minimisation Plan.

Out of Hours (OOH) must ensure any action taken within that service is recorded within the Missing Pathway on LIBERI. An additional email to the relevant district team inbox should be considered to share critical information.


12. Procedures on Return and the Return Interview

If a child is missing, an appropriate plan should be in place for their return.  Such a plan should consider:

  • Will the child return to the previous placement?
  • How will he/she be taken there?
  • Do the Police wish to interview the child before he/she is returned to his/her placement?
  • Who will be the most appropriate person to conduct the Return Interview with the child after his/her return (all young people should be offered an independent interview with the Young Lives Foundation, regardless of any interview that may have taken place with the social worker);
  • If the child returns to their placement of their own accord, they should still be offered a Return Interview with an independent person;
  • Whether there are any child protection concerns;
  • Contact to be made with the social worker to inform of the child being found.

SCS will work together with other relevant professionals to ensure the child is safely returned to their home/placement. Where a missing child is in care, prior discussions should take place between SCS and Police regarding powers to enforce a return, taking into account, age, mental capacity, legal status, child’s wishes and feelings.

A Strategy Discussion following the child’s return must always be considered in respect of any identified or perceived harm/ongoing risk to the child.

On the child’s return, any medical conditions should be discussed immediately, including sexual health advice and emergency contraception if there are indications that this is necessary and an offer made to arrange medical attention.

Where there are suspicions of any criminal offences having been committed against the child, the police must be informed.

When a child has returned, they must be seen and offered a Return Interview as soon as possible and within a maximum of 72 hours. Whilst Return Interviews are offered for completion by the Social Worker, all children should also be offered an interview with an independent worker from the Young Lives Foundation either instead of or in addition to the social worker Return Interview. It is important to understand and respect that some young people may prefer not to be interviewed by their social worker and that where there is a refusal to be interviewed by anyone, discussion with the child about their missing behaviour should nonetheless be revisited at a later date during a usual social work visit.

All Return Interviews should be focussed on meaningful engagement and discussion with the child to enable them to share their story and information that they see as relevant to the missing behaviour. Interviews should also pay attention to information indicating possible placement-centred or care difficulties which may inform assessment of the appropriateness of a child being returned to their placement. Where English is not the child’s first language, use of an interpreter may be needed.

Consideration should always be given to the sharing of information relating to the Missing episode(s) with the police and CSET (Child Sexual Exploitation Team), including relevant information gained from the Return Interview. Such information may inform local mapping and intelligence in respect of patterns of risk and concern. In addition, consideration should be given to sharing information with other professionals and key persons involved with the child who may have an on-going role in keeping the child safe.

Information from and a copy of the Return Interview must be shared with private sector providers caring for the child (IFA, children’s home, or semi-independent setting) via their safeguarding lead, unless there is specific reason to believe that the setting is implicated in reasons for the child’s going missing.

Foster Carers and residential staff may also be advised of relevant details in the Return Interview, including specific details that may help understanding of on-going support needs and risk.

The child will be advised that the Return Interview form is to be shared with their carer and any provider acting on behalf of KCC in caring for the child.

IFAs, Children Homes and semi-independent establishments are expected to have a designated member of staff responsible for analysing information they receive from Return Interviews, providing reports to KCC and the Police to assist in coordinating soft intelligence regarding patterns, themes, venues and other individuals.

Purpose of the Return Interview

  • To better understand the reasons why the child went missing;
  • To explore the circumstances which led to the missing episode(s);
  • To inform future prevention strategies;
  • To inform any future missing person investigation, should that person go missing again;
  • To learn of the activities, associates, risks and victimisation involved in the missing episode, and where possible to address those risks with appropriate and proactive strategies such as the use of the Child Abduction Warning Notice (CAWN) under the Child Abduction Act (1984);
  • To identify and address any harm the child has suffered - including harm that may not have already been disclosed as part of the safe and well check. 

It is important to take account of information gathered at Return Interview to inform onward decision-making, planning and practice with and for the child.

Social Workers should remain aware of possible complacency about a child’s missing behaviour, particularly if episodes are frequent and there is a need to undertake a number of Return Interviews. All missing behaviour should raise concern and each episode should be thoroughly assessed with regard to both known and potential risks.

In any Return Interview as noted above, the most important focus is the child and the conversation that is taking place. Discussion should be meaningful, child-centred and offer creative communication by way of direct work where appropriate, to support the child in sharing their story. If appropriate, the child may be informed about professional concern for them regarding exploitation and information provided detailing the protection and supports available to them.

A distinction may need to be made between those children who were discovered by the authorities when missing and returned to care; and those who may have been abandoned by possible traffickers as having no further value. The former may rapidly go missing again. The latter may be more open to sharing their experiences in a Return Interview and providing intelligence on how they were transported, accommodated etc.


Appendix 1: Flow Chart

Click here to see Appendix 1: Flow Chart.

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