Inquiry calls to scrap police recording system putting missing children at risk

  • Date: 27/05/2016
  • In: UK

Railway Children welcomes this week’s report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults which has called for a controversial police recording system to be scrapped.

When the new system was introduced in 2013, Railway Children’s Andy McCullough warned that “…such changes risk further weakening a far from perfect system, already compromised by inconsistent training, poor information sharing and a lack of clarity on how to accurately assess risk on a case-by-case basis.”

The new system meant children were either classed as either ‘missing’ or ‘absent’. Crucially, only those categorised as missing received an active police response. This has led to at least 10,000 children a year since 2013 receiving no “active police response” when they go missing because they are classed as absent.

Railway Children, aware of the risks faced by children classed as ‘absent’ – including child sexual exploitation - spent three years campaigning for the government to recognise the new absent category as being unfit for purpose. The charity’s role in actively supporting this important Inquiry, including the submission of evidence, has been key to exposing how dangerous the new system has been.

Railway Children supports the Report’s recommendations, and in particular:

  • The ‘absent’ category should be replaced with a response that assesses the level of risk as either ‘low’, ‘medium’ or ‘high’. No child should be allowed to be categorised as low risk without an assessment by police and children’s services. 

  • A national database for missing children is needed that provides accurate data that tells us previously identified risks for individual young people, how many are going missing, where they go missing from, who they go with and what is being done to find them.

Railway Children is also calling for a separate inquiry into local authority provision of return home interviews. These interviews – a requirement under statutory guidance - are crucial in understanding why children go missing and how vulnerable they are, yet a significant number of local authorities continue to fail to offer this support.