A national strategy to reduce the number of children and vulnerable adults who go missing from home or care has today been published by the Home Office.
The long-awaited action plan sets out how local and central government should respond to the problem, including plans for preventative work, education and early intervention.
It specifies that all agencies must have a targeted, proactive plan in place and focuses on keeping missing children and adults safe through local, risk-based responses. It also details how agencies and practitioners should work together to resolve cases as quickly as possible.
Launching the strategy today, crime and security minister James Brokenshire warned that missing children and vulnerable adults are at great risk of harm and sexual exploitation.
“It is vital that everyone with a role to play in safeguarding and providing support works together in order to give the right help and advice to those who need it most.
“This strategy sets the direction for local agencies to review the strategies they have in place and consider whether they can and should be doing more,” he said.
Martin Houghton-Brown, chief executive of the charity Missing People, said: “Historically, if your house was burgled you would automatically get offers of support but if your child went missing you may be offered nothing. This strategy will change that.”
He said police forces and government agencies must now recognise missing children as a child protection issue and vulnerable missing adults as a safeguarding issue. “The Home Office is to be commended, now local practitioners must now follow suit,” he said.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre, which will take the lead on missing children, has also today launched new resources to help professionals working with children who may be at risk of running away from home or care.
They include a short, animated film, developed in collaboration with councils, police, schools and charities, designed to help frontline practitioners to raise awareness about the issue.
Peter Davies, CEOP chief executive, said: “By using our networks and reach we want to further spread understanding, awareness, and share expertise and best practice so that children and their families are best supported.”
The strategy follows an investigation by Community Care which revealed councils are still failing to accurately record the number of children who go missing from care. This could be distorting the true scale of the problem and official missing figures, experts warned.
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