I was really pleased to visit the Noah Festival at St George’s Church earlier this month. The Noah Festival was a successful week-long arts festival in the church, which featured fabulous artistic and craft contributions from local schools, nurseries and community groups, including an amazing ark and rainbow that was built and designed by pupils at St George’s C of E Primary School.
Stockport MP met Davenport parents at St Ambrose Catholic Primary School in Rostrevor Road, to congratulate them on their successful campaign to get a new lollipop lady for their school.
Mum Rebecca Keenan contacted Ann last year about some dangerous parking outside St Ambrose when children were arriving at school or being collected at home time. There was no crossing patrol, and road markings and signage was being ignored by drivers parking their cars inconsiderately, to the point that mums with pushchairs were being forced into the road.
Ann Coffey supported the parents in their efforts to lobby the Council about the problem, and an audit of the location showed that the school did meet the criteria for a crossing patrol. Mrs Helen Hilton, the Headteacher of St Ambrose primary was also fully behind the application, which led eventually to the successful recruitment of Val as the new crossing patrol officer.
Ann Coffey said:
“There was a real problem outside St Ambrose, and I am very pleased that the parents’ campaign has resulted in the Council taking on a new crossing patrol. Officer. It was great to meet the parents, and Val, and see how much of a difference it’s making at the end of the school day.
PHOTOS: Ann Coffey outside St Ambrose Catholic Primary School Rostrevor Road, with (left to right) Val the Crossing Patrol Officer, Rebecca Keenan, Mrs O’Brien, Mrs Hilton the Headteacher and children.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults – Inquiry into the Safeguarding of ‘Absent’ Children
At least 10,000 children a year could be at ‘terrible risk’ because they receive no active police response when they go missing, according a parliamentary inquiry published today.
The inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, supported by The Children’s Society, has called for a controversial police recording system for missing children, introduced in 2013, to be abandoned because it does not safeguard children from harm.
Under the two-tier system, children are classed as either ‘missing’ or ‘absent’ – but crucially only a child classed as missing receives an active police response.
The inquiry heard that children who go missing but are classified by the police as absent slip under services’ radar until the risks, such as child sexual exploitation, become too serious.
The inquiry also heard of cases of children, who were classed as ‘absent’ but who had been groomed for sexual exploitation or criminal involvement such as drug running across county lines.
MPs on the APPG concluded that the separate ‘absent’ category should be scrapped and instead, all missing children should receive the response that is proportionate to the risks they face. The inquiry recommends that this response should always be informed by a joint assessment between the police and children’s services, in order to build up a picture of the child’s life and the risks they face when missing.
The latest figures show that 9,780 runaway children went ‘off the radar’ in a total of 21,399 incidents in 2014-15 because police classed them as ‘absent’ rather than ‘missing’.
The true figure is likely to be even higher as only 29 police forces, out of 37 who have implemented the system, could provide any data on absent children.
Ann Coffey MP, who chaired the inquiry, said:
“All the evidence shows that the new absent category is dangerous and should be scrapped. It is not fit for purpose.
“It was introduced to save police time but has turned out to be a blunt, crude assessment tool that leaves children who are regularly classed as absent in danger of sexual exploitation and of being groomed by criminal gangs. It is scary that exploited young people are falling off the radar and no one knows what is happening to them.
“From Rotherham to Rochdale we have seen a pattern of young people and their families not being taken seriously. Our inquiry heard of one mother whose child was classed as absent. She was left to cope alone and drove around all night long frantically looking for her daughter.
“It is also shocking that there are unacceptable inconsistencies between and within police forces in their approach to missing children. It is now time for all police forces to abandon this hit and miss system. Children deserve the same protection wherever they live.
“There needs to be a joint risk assessment by police and children’s services otherwise children can be left at terrible risk which could have been prevented.”
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“Children who go missing face serious risks of abuse, including child sexual exploitation. The absent category must be dropped. Not only is it preventing vulnerable children from getting the vital help they need, it leaves them in danger.
“Everything possible needs to be done to make sure any child who goes missing receives an active response and when they are found, that they are listened to.
“It is vital that all missing children have the chance to speak to an independent professional who can help them deal with the issues that made them run away in the first place to help stop them from going missing again. No child should feel that no one cares about them.”
The inquiry was also concerned that the initial risk assessment focussed on immediate risk despite the fact that for children at risk of being groomed for sexual or criminal exploitation or drug running, it is the ongoing and cumulative risk that is of most concern.
NB – You can find a link to the full inquiry report here – https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/appg-absent-inquiry-final-report-may-2016-embargoed_0.pdf