By Davinia Overton
Doncaster’s independent children’s services trust has significantly reduced the number of children missing from care.
With the help of a newly created role – children in care liaison officer – the number of young people reported missing from care decreased from 46 to 12 in the year January 2014 to January 2015, a drop of almost 75%.
Since taking the role last March, Rachel Ely-Hiscock, a police officer, has worked predominantly with children in residential care.
‘Warm and engaging’
“By building a good rapport, I can help spot any signs of risk, advise them about staying safe and explain why we need a sensible plan for them coming home when they say they will,” Ely-Hiscock said. She added that the new way of working is helping the local police force save thousands of pounds a week.
Ian Walker, head of children in care at the trust, told Community Care that young people have responded to Ely-Hiscock because she is a warm, engaging person who does not come from a social work perspective.
“She doesn’t have any of the other perceived agendas that social workers and staff at children’s homes have, she’s not responsible for setting down boundaries,” he said.
He added: “She talks to young people from her experience as a police officer. It’s another voice reinforcing the message of how unsafe a young person can be on the street.”
Resources based on risk
Walker also explained the liaison officer role enables his department to encourage the police to focus their resources on the young people believed to be most at risk.
No other variables were found to have contributed to the drop in figures, with the same staffing ratios and number of children in residential homes over the period.
In October 2014, Doncaster’s children’s services trust was set up as an independent organisation, which took the day-to-day running of safeguarding services out of the council’s direct control.