A Parliamentary inquiry is to be held into whether a controversial new police system of recording people who go missing is leaving children at risk of harm.
The inquiry, by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Missing Children and Adults, will be led by Ann Coffey MP, who has launched a call for evidence today.
The deadline for individuals and groups who wish to submit written evidence to the APPG’s new inquiry into how the introduction of the ‘missing’ and ‘absent’ categories has affected the safeguarding response to children who run away is Friday January 22, 2016.
The inquiry will examine how the introduction of a new category of ‘absent’ by the police in 2013 has affected the safeguarding response to children who go missing, including those missing from home, care or education.
Under the new definitions of ‘absent’ and ‘missing,’ only people reported as ‘missing’ initiate an immediate police response.
Children and young people recorded as ‘absent’ are not considered to be at risk of harm and therefore the police will not take action to safeguard them. Police forces record a person as ‘absent’, if they are ‘not in a place where he/she is expected to be’. These children often do not receive a safeguarding response from other local agencies until their circumstances reach a crisis point.
Ms Coffey raised concerns about the new absent category in her report published last October ‘Real Voices – Child Sexual Exploitation Greater Manchester’.
Ms Coffey said: “There is a fear that the new system is open to error and that children who are regularly classed as ‘absent’ instead of ‘missing’ could be sexually or criminally exploited on a regular basis. There would be no police response because they are not recorded as missing. This means exploited young people can fall off the radar.
“Some people were concerned that the new absent category appears to be a way of screening out or camouflaging missing from home episodes.
“There are fears that the new police categories have not strengthened safeguarding and that the initial risk assessment by a call centre, which determines whether there is an immediate police response, could mean that a child might be exposed to significant harm because the level of risk was not assessed properly and they were reported as absent rather than missing.
“These questions and many more will be thoroughly examined by our inquiry and I would urge anyone who can offer any evidence or information about the new absent and missing system to send us their submissions.”
In 2012 the APPG conducted an influential parliamentary inquiry into children who go missing from care, which led to an independent investigation into children’s homes; a clampdown on out of area placements as well as the police being informed of the names and addresses of children’s homes in their area to help safeguard children.
Here is the link to the formal call for evidence – http://anncoffeymp.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/APPG-absent-inquiry-call-for-evidence.pdf
Please structure your submission so that it addresses each topic outlined in the attached call for evidence briefing. All submissions should be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org