Young people missing from care is an issue that all specialist support providers have to face and a risk that has to be carefully managed.
The national police definition of a missing person is, “Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located and their wellbeing is otherwise confirmed.” However, there is a common misconception as to what constitutes ‘missing’ and incorrect reporting of missing young people can be a significant drain on police time and resources.
Steve Challinor, Police Specialist Advisor for Keys, directs internal policies and staff training relating to missing young people and is involved in coalitions and external groups on a national level that raise awareness of this important issue and influence Government policy.
In recognition of the importance of this issue, Keys have undertaken a “Missing” training programme over the last 12 months, which has been cascaded down to staff. The course content enables staff teams to deal with absence and missing episodes effectively and to use the police appropriately.
During the last week Steve has again been invited to take part in the ECRC (English Coalition for Runaway Children) along with leading charities, local authorities and police. The English Coalition for Runaway Children is a coalition of England-based organisations that work with children and young people who run away or go missing from home or care. It exists to ensure that these vulnerable members of our society are safeguarded from harm through effective policy and appropriate services at both national and local level.
The ECRC is co-chaired by the charities Missing People & Catch 22, both of which are high profile and effective in influencing change to improve the safety of young people who go missing.
This week Steve, along with other members of the ECRC, also participated in the APPG (All Party Parliamentary Group) for Missing Children & Adults, which is co-chaired by Baroness Hamwee & Rehman Chisti MP. During this meeting discussions were focused on the effects of COVID restrictions on mental health, issues connected to missing young people and county lines and the question of ‘what should Government prioritise’.
Steve said, “My fellow ECRC members and I are keen to do everything we can to safeguard young people who go missing, share good practice, identify ways to reduce risk for young people and to influence national policy makers. Likewise, it’s essential that all of my Keys colleagues are fully aware of how to manage this vital issue and that we develop and maintain effective professional relationships with police. We need to raise awareness of the risks associated with young people missing from care not just with care providers but society as a whole.”