View London Child Protection Procedures View London Child Protection Procedures

2.12 Islington Missing from Home and Care Procedures

RELATED STATUTORY GUIDANCE

This chapter should be read in conjunction with the following guidance:

AMENDMENT

The Islington procedures related to Children Missing from Home and Children Missing from Care were substantially revised and merged in October 2016 These changes were incorporated into this online manual in December 2016.


Contents

  1. Definitions
  2. Prevention and Planning
  3. Reporting and Recording Missing
  4. The Safeguarding Process
  5. Missing Child Notifications
  6. Return to Home/Placement
  7. Recording
  8. Early Help Services Response to Missing Children
  9. Monitoring and the Missing Panel

    Appendix 1: Missing Workflow for Statutory Services

    Appendix 2: Missing Practice Guidance for Statutory Services

    Appendix 3: Missing Practice Guidance for Early Help Services

    Appendix 4: Missing from Care and Home Panel Terms of Reference


1. Definitions

As the lead agency in the investigation and location of missing children, the Metropolitan Police service, will respond to children and young people going missing or absent based on continuous risk assessment. Police will prioritise their response to all incidents of missing children in line with their classification of ‘missing’ or ‘absent’ and on-going risk assessment that outcome as medium or high risk.

The police define 'missing' and 'absent' as:

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'.

Absent: ‘A person is not at a place where they are expected or required to be'.

When a child is recorded as absent by the police, the case will be monitored on the CAD system and regularly reviewed. If information is introduced that changes the risk level of an ‘absent’ child then the case may be re-categorised as missing.

The following definitions and guidance apply to all children under the age of 18yrs along with relevant children.

Missing From Home: A child whose whereabouts cannot be established - where the circumstances are out of character or there are indicators to suggest that the child may be at risk of harm to themselves or others. Any child who fits the above definition, where there are additional concerns regarding CSE, gangs, radicalisation, FGM, forced marriage etc…should be considered ‘missing’ and not ‘absent’ (reasonable professional judgement).

Missing from Care: Includes children that have stayed out longer than allowed (unauthorised absence), run away (missing) and/or been removed from care by an adult (missing). A child where the circumstances are out of character or there are indicators to suggest that the child may be at risk of harm to themselves or others. (Including additional concerns regarding CSE, gangs, radicalisation, FGM, forced marriage etc.) should be considered ‘missing’ and not ‘absent’ (reasonable professional judgement).

Away from Placement without Authorisation: A looked after child whose whereabouts is known but who is not at their placement or place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the police.

If a looked after child is considered to be ‘away from placement without authorisation’ then the carer or social worker (as appropriate) should work to ascertain the wellbeing of the child through, when appropriate, visiting the location and contacting the child. If there are additional concerns that the child may be at risk of significant harm then police should be notified and action taken to address the risk.

Decisions about the nature of, and the appropriate course of action in response to, a child’s absence must take account of:

  • Age and level of maturity;
  • Legal status i.e. is s/he subject to a court order or accommodated by voluntary agreement;
  • Previous absenteeism;
  • History of self-harm, sexual vulnerability, mental health, learning difficulty or substance abuse;
  • Known adult or peer contacts;
  • Any information suggesting that s/he is running to a specific person;
  • Any indication of difficulties or abuse within the Home or placement;
  • Duration of the absence;
  • Contingency arrangements in the care plan and placement agreement.


2. Prevention and Planning

Children Looked After: All children who are 'Looked After' by the Local Authority will receive information, which advises them:

  • The procedure to be followed if they go missing;
  • That there is an expectation they will speak to a Police Officer on their return;
  • That they will be offered the opportunity to speak to an independent person (either the Children's Rights Officer or an independent advocate);
  • All files of looked after children should have a recent photograph of the child or young person;
  • That the child/young person will be offered a return interview with the the Targeted Youth Service;
  • That their Independent Reviewing Officer will be informed that they are missing or absent.

Risk Assessments will be completed prior to each accommodation arrangement of a Looked After child, Children's Social Care must consider within the planning process all potential risks to the child including an assessment of the potential for them to go missing. The child and his/her parent/carer should be involved in the assessment and planning process. The risk assessment will be placed on the child’s ICS record. Children who may be deemed at high risk of going missing include, children who have been remanded to Local Authority care, children who have a history of absconding, children at risk of/affected by CSE or at risk of serious youth violence, children who are at risk of their parents’ removing them from care. Risk assessments and plans should be shared with the parent/carer, the police and host Local Authority (if the child is placed out of borough) and the professional network.

Children Missing from Home: It is best practice that all case files have an up to date risk assessment recorded.

For children where CSE, radicalisation or serious youth violence concerns have been identified a risk marker should be placed on the case file and updated as per the Hazards Guidance. If a risk marker has been placed on a file then there should be clear and up-to-date risk assessments, safety plans and intervention records on file that include planning around missing.


3. Reporting and Recording Missing Children

All missing children should be reported to Police through calling 101.

There are different ways in which Childrens Social Care may be notified when a child goes missing - and subsequent methods of recording:

  1. The Childrens Service Contact Team (CSCT) may receive a report (often referred to as a merlin, p78 or PAC report) directly from the police that a child has been reported missing:
    • For children who do not reside in the local authority or are not Looked After by Islington, CSCT will notify the local authority in which the child resides or is looked after;
    • For children who are allocated to an Islington statutory social work team - the social work team will be notified through a missing episode being created on the LCS system;
    • For children who reside in the borough but are not open to a statutory social work team – CSCT will create a missing episode on LCS and monitor the case through communication with the police and on-going risk assessments. If a child remains missing they will be referred to a statutory social work team for a safeguarding response on the 5th day of being missing unless information indicates that a statutory social work service is needed more swiftly.
  2. The Social Worker or Emergency Duty Team (out of office hour’s service) may be notified directly by another professional, a parent / carer, member of the public or placement provision:
    • If notified by another professional, care provision unit or foster carer then the Social Worker will advise them of their duty to report the child missing to the Police by calling 101. It is the duty of the Social Worker to initiate the missing episode recording on LCS.
    • If notified by a parent or member of the public that a child is missing then in first instance the Social Worker will encourage and support the contact person to report the child missing to the Police by calling 101. This may need to be confirmed by the Social Worker through calling 101. It is the duty of the Social Worker to initiate the missing episode recording on LCS.
    • If a Social Worker is contacted by a parent or member of the public to advise that they have already reported a child missing to the Police then the Social Worker will need to initiate the recording of the missing episode and reference the Police CAD number.

For detailed information on the reporting and recording of Missing please refer to Appendix 1: Missing Workflow for Statutory Services and Appendix 2: Missing Practice Guidance for Statutory Services.

For children that go missing from care it is the responsibility of the social work team to coordinate the immediate response and agreed actions with the police, parents and multi-professional network – this includes providing the Police with an up-to-date risk assessment along with key information (listed below). This must be clearly recorded on the LCS missing episode record. For children missing from care, the foster carer or residential social worker is usually the last one to have seen the child and therefore in most circumstances they will be the most appropriate person to report the child missing and ensure that the Police receive a copy of their risk assessment.

When reporting a child missing to the Police, the following key information should be provided (where possible):

  • Name, gender and date of birth;
  • Ethnicity, first language and any additional communication needs;
  • Description of individual, including clothing and any tattoos or piercing;
  • Any street name or alias;
  • A recent photo;
  • Family address/es;
  • Addresses of known friends or acquaintances;
  • Any previous episode/s of being missing;
  • Name and address of child / young person’s GP and dentist;
  • Legal status;
  • Any previous links with street based agencies;
  • Efforts made already to locate the child / young person;
  • Any circumstances thought to increase risk;
  • Most recent completed risk assessment.


4. The Safeguarding Response

For children open to a statutory social work team the following process should be followed when the child goes missing from care or missing from home:

A. Risk Assessment

All cases should have an up to date risk assessment on file. It is important that risk assessments are up-to-date and clearly recorded for children and young people that go missing. The generic risk assessment can be accessed in the LCS Missing episode record. The risk assessment should take into account individual circumstances.

The risk assessment on LCS should be updated as and when the risk changes or every 3 months.

The LCS risk assessment should be shared with Police and the professional network. If a child has additional risk concerns (such as serious youth violence or child sexual exploitation) and there is a specialised risk assessment on file, then this should also be shared with Police.

B. Missing Meeting

In the following situations the Social Work team is required to hold a meeting where the missing risks and safeguarding response is discussed and agreed:

  • For children who go missing from home a missing meeting should be held within 7 days of the missing episode;
  • For children looked after who go missing from care a missing meeting should be held within 3 days of the missing episode.

Missing Meetings should be recorded clearly in the missing meeting case note via the open missing episode record.

For children that go missing on a regular basis review Missing Meetings should be held, as opposed to after each missing episode, to share information and agree the updated missing safety plan. Missing Meeting attendance should be the multi-professional network. Where possible the relevant missing Police should attend the meeting and/or provide input and updates.

Cases that meet threshold for a strategy meeting/discussion: Regardless of the above timescales, if a child is at risk of significant harm then a strategy discussion should take place between TSCFS management and the police. The discussion should have input from other agencies and must have input from health. If the situation is complex or particularly high risk, then a strategy meeting should be convened with the Police and other agencies. Missing strategy meetings are to be chaired by the CSE, Missing and Trafficking Coordinator. Strategy discussions or meetings are recorded using the standard strategy form on the case file.

All of the above Missing Meetings (including strategy discussions or meetings where missing is the focus) should consider the following:

  • Any further steps that could be taken to locate and recover the child / young person, this includes undertaking corporate parenting duties such as visiting addresses where children are suspected to be;
  • If the child has been located any steps that could be taken to prevent the child going missing again;
  • Whether to circulate the child / young person’s details via the Islington’s Service Manager Quality & Safeguarding to other local authorities and agencies in areas in which s/he may be;
  • Notifying national authorities and agencies including the National Missing Persons Unit, Social Security, the Benefits Agency and Child Benefit Agency;
  • Appropriate legal interventions and consulting legal services if there is any suspicion that the child may be removed from UK jurisdiction (this may include contact with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office);
  • The use of Abduction notices by the Police where it is likely that a child/young person is being harboured by an adult.

The meeting should also address the following issues:

  • Is it safe for the child / young person to return to the previous placement / continue to stay at the placement?
  • How will s/he be taken to the placement?
  • Should a medical be undertaken?
  • Do police wish to make further enquiries before the child or young person returns to her/his placement?
  • Should a pre-disruption / disruption meeting be convened when s/he is located?
  • Who will be the appropriate ‘independent person’ to talk to the child / young person after her/his return?
  • Is the child at risk of being trafficked?
  • Is it appropriate to apply for a Recovery Order?
  • Should a pre-secure planning meeting be requested?

For Children Missing from care, the responsibility for returning the child / young person to her/his placement should be negotiated between the Children’s Social Care and the service provider. In some circumstances the police may agree to assist.

C. Missing Safety Plan

For cases where a Missing Meeting has been held it is important that a Missing Safety Plan is recorded; detailing the multi-professional safety guarding response to the child and actions and responsibilities from the Missing Meeting. This may include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Responsibility of professionals/services in supporting the child upon return;
  • Considerations and focus that may need to be taken in the Return to Home Interview;
  • Information to be gathered and passed to Police to support in locating the child;
  • Preventative and support work that may be offered to the child;
  • Additional support to be provided to parent/s, carers or placement provision around reporting missing;
  • Review dates for any further Missing Meetings.

The Missing Safety Plan should be clearly recorded in the case notes section of the LCS Missing episode. The Missing Safety Plan should be updated at every Missing Meeting and shared with the professional network.

The Missing Safeguarding and recording process is set out for statutory services in the attached guidance (Appendix 1: Missing Workflow for Statutory Services and Appendix 2: Missing Practice Guidance for Statutory Services).


5. Missing Notifications

The Team Manager must notify the Operational Manager as soon as it is known that a child is missing. Whenever a child is missing for more than 24 hours the Head of Service must be notified – the Head of Service will update the Director, on a twice weekly basis. For children missing from care over 7 days the Director briefs the Lead Member.

The Team Manager will notify the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance team (Email S&QA) and the Service and Deputy Managers of the Safeguarding and Quality Assurance Team.

Any decision to contact the press about a missing ‘looked after’ child or young person should not be made until a discussion with the Director, TSCFS has been held, consultation with child’s family (where appropriate) completed and advice received from the police divisional commander or her/his nominated officer.

The Safeguarding & Quality Assurance Service will undertake notification to other Local Authorities, where this is decided by the Missing Meeting.

6. Return to Home/Placement

All relevant professionals, parents/carer’s and police should be advised of the child's return without delay by the child’s social worker.

When a child is found or returns to home or placement then the Police will undertake a ‘safe and well check’ (often referred to as a ‘debrief’).

Every child that goes missing should be offered a Return to Home Interview (RHI) upon their return, by a professional independent from that child’s immediate safeguarding team (i.e. the Police, the Social Worker, parent or carer). The Targeted Youth Service (TYS) offer Return to Home Interviews to all missing children.

The purpose of a RHI is to offer the child a space in which they can reflect upon, discuss and/or disclose information relating to the circumstances of why they went missing and what happened to them during their time missing. A RHI also addresses any concerns that the child may have and can be used as way of offering support to the child.

It is important that information gathered in a RHI is monitored and shared (as appropriate). For all children allocated to a statutory social worker, it is the social workers responsibility to review the RHI form (on LCS) and take forward any recommendations by TYS or information shared by the child. For cases open to Early Help Services, it is also important that they review the RHI document (saved on EHM) and address any concerns.

For Children Looked After the Social Worker will inform the child’s Independent Reviewing Officer when the child has returned.


7. Recording

Throughout the missing process the Social Work Team should provide clear recording of procedures, communication and rationale on EHM/ICS. Please refer to Appendix 2: Missing Practice Guidance for Statutory Services and Appendix 3: Missing Practice Guidance for Early Help Services for detailed guidance on how to record missing episodes on LCS and EHM.

Residential Units and Foster Carers should be advised to keep records of missing and absent episodes in their log-books. This information should be shared with the multi-professional team.

The Police will record all details of contacts and enquiries made as a part of the investigation into tracing, locating and the return of the child or young person.


8. Early Help Services Response to Missing Children

The following practice guidance is for professionals from Early Help Services to follow when any child under 18 years of age or relevant young person goes missing:

Reporting and Responding to Missing:

  • If another professional informs an Early Help Service practitioner that a child is missing: then the practitioner needs to advise the professional that it is their duty to report that child missing to the Police by calling 101and support them to do so;
  • If a parent or carer informs an Early Help Service practitioner that a child is missing: the practitioner should encourage the parent to report the child missing to the Police by calling 101, and provide support to enable them to do so. They should also encourage the parent or carer to write down the Police reference number (or CAD number) so that this can be recorded;
  • If the practitioner does not feel sure that a parent or carer has reported the child missing to the Police or the parent/carer does not feel able to do so and gives their consent – then the practitioner will need to report the child missing to Police by calling 101 directly;
  • If a parent or carer refuses to report a child missing and refuses to give the Early Help Service practitioner consent for them to report the child missing to police then an immediate referral to The Childrens Services Contact Team (CSCT) on CSCreferrals@islington.gov.uk will need to be made - advising them that the child is missing.

In all of the above situations the practitioner will need to record that the child is missing and their professional response on a case-note. If a practitioner has reported a child missing to the police then they will need to record the Police reference (or CAD) number on case-notes.

For the full guidance document circulated to Early Help Services – please see Appendix 3: Missing Practice Guidance for Early Help Services.


9. Monitoring and the Missing Panel

The Service Managers for the Children in Need and the Children Looked After services have responsibility for ensuring staff adhere to the agreed Islington Children Missing from Home or Care Guidance.

The CSE, Missing and Trafficking Coordinator will have oversight of missing cases, team compliance and work closely with services to develop response and ensure good practice. The CSE, Missing and Trafficking Coordinator will also chair strategy meetings for complex missing cases.

The CSE, Missing and Trafficking Coordinator works closely with the Missing Project Officer and Management Information Officers from the Performance team to gather data from the recording of missing that can be used to develop safeguarding practice and response.

Childrens Services Missing Panel:

The Missing Panel is held on a monthly basis and attended by managers from Children Looked After, Children in Need and Safeguarding and Quality Assurance. The panel is also attended by the Islington Police Missing Unit.

The panel is set up to review high risk/complex missing cases, or any other cases where children are frequently missing and there is a need for an ongoing co-ordinated approach. The child does not have to be missing at the time the panel is convened in order to be discussed. The panel is practitioner led; with cases nominated for discussion by Childrens Services management, front-line practitioners and police. The allocated social worker and/or line manager is invited to attend the panel to advise on the case and participate in discussions and planning.

The panel is not intended to replace strategy discussions or meetings and safety planning which should continue as required under Missing procedures. The panel provides an opportunity for face to face discussions and problem solving to take place on individual cases that are of concern.

Please see Appendix 4: Missing from Care and Home Panel Terms of Reference for further information.


Appendices

Appendix 1: Missing Workflow for Statutory Services

Appendix 2: Missing Practice Guidance for Statutory Services

Appendix 3: Missing Practice Guidance for Early Help Services

Appendix 4: Missing from Care and Home Panel Terms of Reference

End