Children in care still at risk due to inconsistent missing persons system

  • Date: 07/03/2017
  • In: UK

Railway Children welcomes the findings of the recently published National Crime Agency’s Missing Persons Data Report as an important step in addressing previous 'inconsistencies' in policing identified by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, which have hindered efforts by local authorities and police when responding to young people going missing.

We also welcome evidence in the report that suggests the reporting and recording of missing cases has improved. New guidance published in November last year by the policing college, which was tasked with identifying best practice, has played a key role in further clarifying when children should be treated as missing or absent.

However, the findings from the NCA report reveal a number of concerns still remain regarding missing children, who account for 60% of all missing incidents.

Andy McCullough, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, at Railway Children, said: “Thirty-five per cent of missing persons are aged 15-17, so it is worrying that the NCA report has identified some police forces to be still inappropriately classing all missing children from care only as absent, meaning the child is at “no apparent risk”, when the reality is they could be at serious risk of harm. A quick and accurate assessment of risk is essential to ensuring vulnerable children get the help they need at the right time.”

The NCA report also acknowledges that while the recording practices for missing people incidents by police forces have improved, greater consistency is still required.

“It is vital for police forces to gather reliable and consistent data that can be shared across police lines to fully understand the underlying reasons why a child goes missing, with a focus on prevention and early intervention,” said Andy McCullough.

We continue to call 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.