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2.20 Responding to children and families who are not where they are expected to be
When children are on a child protection plan and not where they are expected to be, practitioners will experience anxiety and concern.
Ensuring that a child is safe is a shared responsibility by all members of the safeguarding partnership and the child’s Core Group. Tracing a child and their family is also a shared responsibility and to ensure this happens as efficiently as possible it is important that all practitioners share a common language and recognise the unique statutory responsibilities that different partners hold.
It is important to differentiate between a MISSING child and a child and family who ARE NOT WHERE THEY ARE EXPECTED TO BE.
A child who is missing from home, where other members of the family remain at the home address or who is missing from care is a child who is at risk. The Regional Safeguarding Procedures should be followed: https://westmidlands.procedures.org.uk/pkpls/regional-safeguarding-guidance/children-missing-from-care-home-and-education
Where a child and their family are not where they are expected to be, i.e. they appear to have moved or parents are reporting that their child has gone to live with another relative or family friend, the Core Group need to work together to try and locate them.
- The social worker speaking with all known family members
- Education provider to confirm child’s attendance and if the children’s pupil files have been transferred elsewhere
- The health visitor, school nurse, GP and/ or the MASH Nurses may be able to confirm if the family registered with an alternative GP
- Discussion with the Police via 101 of the risks associated with the family or child not being at their usual address. This should be considered as a request for a Concern for Welfare or Safe and Well Checks.
- The Social Worker needs to ensure that they share all relevant information with the Call Handler to enable the correct decision to be made as to whether the family require a Safe and Well Check or should be considered as missing persons.
- If multiagency colleagues have any concerns regarding missing children and/ or families following the above processes then discussion with the Designated Nurse/ Deputy Designated Nurse for Safeguarding Children (CCG) should be considered in relation to implementing NHSE Safeguarding Case Discussion Protocol (NHSE, July 2020) and consideration for assessment of alerting health establishments on a regional or national basis.
- NB; If a child is on a child protection plan, CP-IS should be utilised.
The Core Group should continue to meet while the children and family are missing or not where they should be, to review the outcome of actions taken and agree next steps and should consider meeting at an increased frequency until such time as the child/ren and family have been located and seen by a professional.
Once all these actions have been completed and reviewed consideration should then be given by the Core Group to considering the child and family as Missing Persons and the social worker will report the child and their family as Missing to the Police.
The call handler will seek to gather as much relevant information as possible as this will determine the initial police response, and the decision making in respect of the THRIVE risk assessment: They will also ensure that the following questions are asked:
- Is this significantly out of character, have they done this before? If yes, when was the last time?
- Have you been in contact with person, do you know their whereabouts and is there a time you expect them
- Do you know their intended actions when last seen and have you done anything to locate them?
- Do you know who they are with?
- Is this person a danger to themselves or others?
- Does the person have any specific medical needs; do you have a list of their medication? Is there a Care Plan in place?
- Is this person likely to self-harm or attempt suicide?
- Is this person likely to be subject to harm or a crime?
- Is this person a victim of abuse and/or at risk of sexual exploitation?
- Is this person being looked after or supported by any Children’s or Adult Services?
- Prior to this report was the person displaying any behaviours or actions you consider out of the ordinary or cause for concern? E.g. Increased use of technology, unexplained gifts/money?
- Are there any other specific concerns or can you offer any other significant information at all?
Port alerts can be requested by the Police if one of the following have been established:
- A member of the family is wanted for arrest(Article 26 of Council Decision 2007/533/JHA). This alert category covers persons for whom a European Arrest Warrant or Extradition Request (Associated Countries) has been issued.
- It has been agreed with West Midlands Police that the child or family are Missing persons (Article 32 of Council Decision 2007/533/JHA). The purpose of this alert category is to find missing persons, including children, and to place them under protection, if lawful and necessary.
A port alert cannot be put in place without one of these conditions being met. The police in England and Wales do not need a court order before instituting a port alert. Police in Scotland do need a court order.