Jersey SPB Logo
Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

Introduction and Definitions

Introduction

Children running away and going missing from care, home and education is a central issue for the Safeguarding Partnership Board. Current UK research findings estimate that 25 per cent of children and young people, who go missing are likely to suffer significant harm. There are specific concerns about the links between children running away and the risks of sexual exploitation. Many looked after children (LAC) missing from their placements are vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation, especially children in residential care.

Acknowledgement: This guidance has taken account of the DfE Statutory Guidance on ‘Children who run away or go missing from home or care’, January 2014. This is not statutory guidance in Jersey but contains useful information for professionals.

Definitions

The definitions used in Jersey when working with children, young people and their families are set out as follows:

  • Child: anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. ‘Children’ and ‘young people’ are used throughout this guidance to refer to anyone under the age of 18;
  • Looked after child: a child who is looked after by reason of a care order, or if she/he is provided with accommodation for more than 24 hours by agreement with his/her parents or with the child if she/he is aged 16 or more;
  • Accommodated: a child is accommodated if the minister looks after him / her with the voluntary agreement of his/her parents or with the child if she/he is over 16 years of age
  • Absconded: when a child has gone missing who is subject to legal orders i.e. secure orders. Police must be given details of the order and the expiry date
  • Care leaver: any child or young person formally in care
  • Missing from care: a looked after child who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be (e.g. school) and their whereabouts is not known;
  • Care leavers cover young people from aged 18-21 in the first instance and aged 21-25 if remaining in full time education-24.

Agency Roles and Responsibilities

The States of Jersey Police Force

The States of Jersey Police Force, as the lead agency for investigating and finding missing children, will respond to children and young people going missing or at no apparent risk based on on-going risk assessments in line with current guidance. The police definitions of ‘missing’ and ‘no apparent risk’ are:

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.

and

No apparent risk

A person is not at a place where they are expected or required to be (and there is no apparent risk).

The States of Jersey Police have a single agency Missing from Home policy covering their procedures when a child goes missing.

Children’s Services

Children’s Services and other partners have a responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. This includes planning to prevent children from going missing and to do everything possible to ensure their safe return when they do go missing.

Children’s Services must ensure that all incidents where children go missing are appropriately risk assessed, and should record all incidents of looked after children who are missing.

Education

Education staff are tasked with mandatory recording of pupils’ attendance and the follow up of all absence and lateness. The Education Department has a school attendance policy which gives guidance in response to absence, lateness and welfare concerns. See Education Policies (gov.je).

Healthcare Professionals

Healthcare professionals have a key role in identifying and reporting children who may be missing from care, home and school.

  • Missing children access a number of services provided by a range of health providers, for example:
    • Accident and Emergency Departments;
    • Sexual Health clinics;
    • Pharmacy Services; and
    • GPs.

Health professionals should have an understanding of the vulnerabilities and risks associated with children that go missing. Staff working in health settings should be aware of their professional responsibilities and the responses undertaken by the multi-agency partnership. Risks include sexual exploitation, trafficking, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Radicalisation is also a risk factor for vulnerable young people.

Health should provide a comprehensive service for Looked after Children (LAC). A Designated Nurse and Doctor for Looked after Children are located on Island Designated health professionals for LAC should share relevant information and intelligence relating to high risk individuals or emerging themes and patterns indicative of organised and targeted abuse. They should also ensure that all health staff know how to identify, report and respond to a child who is missing from care.


Data on Children who go Missing

The Department of Education Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care (January 2014) states the following:

Looked after children who go missing, or who are away from placement without authorisation, can be at increased risk of sexual or other forms of exploitation or of involvement in drugs, gangs, criminal activity or trafficking. Particular attention should be paid to repeat episodes. Data on these episodes should be analysed regularly in order to map problems and patterns. Regular reports on this data should be provided to the Safeguarding Partnership Board.

As the guidance says, early and effective sharing of information between professionals and agencies is essential for the identification of patterns of risky behaviour. This may be used to identify areas of concern for an individual child, or to identify ‘hotspots’ of activity in a local area.

Organisations should collect data on children reported missing from care including repeat episodes of missing from care or from home and other relevant data and should regularly analyse this in order to map problems and patterns. This should include identifying patterns of sexual and other exploitation.

Good practice suggests that the following data should be collected and analysed by a multi professional group:

  • Demographics of all children who are missing, absent or away from placement without authorisation;
  • Associates of the above;
  • The legal status of the children;
  • Episodes, and length of episode by child;
  • Numbers and themes from safe and well checks;
  • Numbers and themes from return interviews;
  • Cross match data with local information about gangs, CSE lists, home educated and missing from education lists, including information about children who go missing for part of the school day;
  • Consideration should be given to analysing where the child is found as this information could help identify links between missing children and criminal groups;
  • Analyse data by establishment and geographical area.

Specific Risks

Grooming

Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation. Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional. Groomers may be male or female. They could be any age. Many children and young people don't understand that they have been groomed, or that what has happened is abuse.

Children can be groomed for the purpose of sexual abuse as well as other forms of exploitation including involvement in criminal and extremist activity. Children who are missing are more vulnerable to being groomed and may also go missing as a result of being groomed.

Protecting Children at Risk of Radicalisation

Children and young people can suffer harm when exposed to extremist ideology. This harm can range from a child adopting or complying with extreme views which limit their social interaction and full engagement with their education, to children being groomed for involvement in violent attacks.

Children can by exposed to harmful, extremist ideology in the immediate or extended family, or relatives/family friends who live outside the family home but have influence over the child’s life. Older children or young people might self-radicalise over the internet or through the influence of their peer network – in this instance their parents might not know about this or feel powerless to stop their child’s radicalisation.

Going missing is a risk factor in relation to radicalisation:

  • A child may go missing because they have already been radicalised;
  • A child’s risk of being radicalised might increase because they are missing and are spending time with people who may seek to involve them in radical/extreme activities. The risk is heightened whilst they are missing, because the protective factors of family or care are not available to them.

Professionals should always assess whether a child who has gone missing is at risk of radicalisation.

Children at Risk of Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

The sexual exploitation of children involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where the young person (or third person/s) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common.

Involvement in exploitative relationships is characterised by the child’s or young person’s limited availability of choice as a result of their social, economic or emotional vulnerability.

A common feature of CSE is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation.

Going missing is a significant risk factor in relation to sexual exploitation:

  • A child may go missing because they are being sexually exploited;
  • A child’s risk of being sexually exploited might increase because they are missing and are spending time with people who may seek to involve them in sexual exploitation. The risk is heightened whilst they are missing because the protective factors of family or care are not available to them.

Because there is such a strong link between children going missing and risk of sexual exploitation, professionals should always assess whether a child who has gone missing is being sexually exploited or at risk of being sexually exploited.

Children at Risk of being Drawn into Offending Behaviour

Children and young people who go missing from care, home and education also need safeguarding against the risk of being drawn into offending behaviour by gangs or criminal groups.


Children Missing from Care and Care Leavers

Care Leavers

When a young person in care reaches age 16 they will continue to be supported on a pathway plan instead of a care plan. From the age of 18 young people in care are referred to as care leavers. Organisations continue to have a range of responsibilities towards children leaving care in some instances until their 25th birthday if they remain in full time education.

Prevention and Planning – Risk Assessment

Children’s Services on behalf of the Chief Minister have a duty to place a looked after child in the most appropriate placement to safeguard the child and minimise the risk of the child running away. The care plan should include details of the arrangements that will need to be in place to keep the child safe and minimise the risk of the child going missing from their placement.

Remember:

  • The Care Plan – should include strategies to avoid unauthorised absences and/or a child going missing. It should also include strategies to reduce the duration and risks associated if the child does have unauthorised absences/go missing;
  • Statutory reviews should consider any absences and revise strategies to prevent repeat absences and/or missing incidents and the care plan should be revised accordingly.

Where a child already has an established pattern of running away, the Care Plan should include a strategy to keep the child safe and minimising the likelihood of the child running away in the future. This should be discussed and agreed as far as possible with the child and with the child’s carers and should include detailed information about the responsibilities of all services, the child’s parents and other adults involved in the family network.

Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) should be informed about missing / absent episodes and they should address these in statutory reviews. Designated health professionals for Looked After Children (LAC) should be informed of children missing from care who are deemed to be ‘high risk’. They should be included in any multi agency strategy meetings or activity to manage the child’s retrieval and any subsequent health needs.

Designated education professionals should be informed and included in the review process.


Children Missing from Home

Children Missing from Home

Organisations need to be alert to the risk of sexual exploitation or involvement in drugs, gangs or criminal activity such as trafficking and to be aware of local “hot spots” as well as concerns about any individuals, who children runaway to be with.

Organisations should also consider the ‘hidden missing’, who are children who have not been reported missing to the police, but have come to an agency’s attention after accessing other services.

Children missing from home are subject to risks and vulnerabilities similar to those for children who are looked after. Health designated and named professionals hold a responsibility with regards to safeguarding in the local health community, and must be included in the information sharing and management processes being put in place for children deemed to be at high risk.

Notifying the Police

The information required by the police to assist in locating and returning the child to a safe environment is as follows:

  • The child’s name/s; date of birth; status; responsible authority;
  • Where and when they went missing;
  • Who, if anyone, they went missing with;
  • What the child was wearing plus any belongings they had with them such as bags, phone etc;
  • Description and recent photo;
  • Medical history, if relevant;
  • Time and location last seen;
  • Circumstances or events around going missing;
  • Details of family, friends and associates.

Leaflet: What to do if your child goes missing

Leaflet: Thinking of running away?


Children Missing from Education

Children Missing from Education is different from Children Missing Education (CME). Children Missing from Education relates to attendance or where a child goes missing from school during the educational day.

If a member of school/educational establishment/college staff becomes aware that a child may have run away or gone missing, they should try to establish with the parents / carers, what has happened. The School Attendance Policy (gov.je) gives guidance on what to do if a child fails to attend or goes missing during the school day.


Actions when a Child has been Found

Police Prevention Interview

Police Prevention Interviews should be carried out by the police as soon as possible after the child has returned. Their purpose is to check for any indications that the child has suffered harm, where and with whom they have been, and to give the child an opportunity to disclose any offending against them.

Where a child goes missing frequently, it may not be practicable for the police to see them every time they return. In these cases a reasonable decision should be taken in agreement between the police and the child’s parent with regard to the frequency of such checks bearing in mind the established link between frequent missing episodes and serious harm.

Independent Return Review

The Independent Return Review is an in-depth interview and is carried out by Jersey Youth Service. Children sometimes need to build up trust with a person before they will discuss in depth the reasons why they ran away.

The police submit a Child Protection Notice via MASH to notify Jersey Youth Service that a return review interview needs to take place. Contact should be made with the child and an independent return interview should be offered and provided within 72 hours of the child returning home.

The interview and actions that follow from it should:

  • Identify and deal with any harm the child has suffered – including harm that might not have already been disclosed as part of the ‘Safe and Well check’– either before they ran away or whilst missing;
  • Understand and try to address the reasons why the child ran away;
  • Help the child feel ‘safe’ and understand that they have options, to prevent repeat instances of them running away;
  • Understand what the child would like to see happen next whether short term and/or long term;
  • Gather the parents or carers views of the circumstances, if appropriate;
  • Provide the child with information on how to stay safe if they choose to run away again, including helpline numbers.

Following the Police Prevention Interview Children’s Services, police and voluntary services should assess the child’s needs and work together:

  • To build up a comprehensive picture of why the child went missing;
  • What happened while they were missing;
  • Who they were missing with and where they were found; and
  • What support they require upon returning home.

Where children refuse to engage with the interview, parents should be offered the opportunity to provide any relevant information and intelligence they may be aware of. This should help to prevent further instances of the child running away and identify early the support needed for them.


Flowchart: Statutory Guidance on Children who Run Away or go Missing from Home or Care

Flowchart: Statutory Guidance on Children who Run Away or go Missing from Home or Care



Amendments to this Chapter

In May 2018, this chapter was updated. In Children Missing from Care and Care Leavers in the guidance on Independent Return Reviews a small amendment was added clarifying the importance that a Return Interview should be offered and provided within 72 hours of the child being located or returning from absence. This is in line with the Statutory Guidance on Children Who Run Away or Go Missing from Home or Care (2014) and is important to reduce the risk of the loss of important information or evidence. In Children Missing from Education clarification that a Child missing from school for more than four weeks the pupil can be removed from the admission register when the school and the local authority have failed, after jointly making reasonable enquiries, to establish the whereabouts of the child.

End.