Police working with care homes to reduce number of missing children across Yorkshire

Specialist police officers across Yorkshire are working with children's care homes in a bid to reduce the number of young people who go missing across the county every year.
Specialist police officers across Yorkshire are working with children's care homes in a bid to reduce the number of young people who go missing across the county every year.
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Specialist police officers across Yorkshire are working with children's care homes in a bid to reduce the number of young people who go missing across the county every year.

Statistics from across the Yorkshire police forces show on average that young girls are more likely to go missing than boys with those aged between 15 and 17 most likely to disappear.

A lot of children that go missing may have problems at home or in their care situation, which includes conflicts with parents, carers or other family members.

Humberside Police saw more than 150 children go missing across the force area in the summer of 2018, some on more than one occasion which actually resulted in over 350 reports to the force.

Detective Inspector Paul Welton said: “Young people are particularly vulnerable due to their age and can easily fall in with the wrong people. If we receive a report that a young person has gone missing we do our utmost to find them as soon as possible.

“Children who go missing or run away are at increased risk of being harmed, which is exacerbated by the possibility of sleeping rough or committing crime to survive.

“Our priority is to locate and protect them, ensure their safety and to prevent them from becoming involved in crime.

“Once we have found a missing child, we speak to them about why they went missing and try and find out what they were doing while they were away from home.

“We have also introduced a new initiative whereby each child reported missing is invited to a meeting where they can talk to people, including social services and the police, about why they went missing and we try and find a way help them cope with their problems.

“We look to find a focus for them and get them into training or skills-based education to help them get through whatever rough patch they are in. This is giving us some really good results and a number of frequently reported missing children are starting to turn their lives around with our help.”

Detective Sergeant Matt Garland-Collins works for North Yorkshire Police's Harm Reduction and Missing From Home team.

"We have an overview of what is happening and seeing if there are any patterns or trends when it comes to those going missing and we make sure procedures are being followed to try and reduce the numbers," he said.

"We look at problems that are peculiar to children in care who are statistically more likely to be reported as missing and look at the reasons as to why this is and can we understand why they are going missing. Rather than addressing the behaviour, we are addressing why that behaviour is occurring so you can reduce the number of young people going missing.

"We work closely with local authorities and share information. There are children from other local authority areas that are placed here in children's homes and there is quite a lot of risk associated with that. It's not for us to get involved in the day-to-day, because that sits with uniformed colleagues who go out and do all the checks. It is more background work and improving practices to keep people safe."

Det Sgt Garland-Collins has regular meetings with care home staff and foster carers to get a better understanding of how they can work together and says education is the key.

“The interactions children from care homes sometimes have with the police are not as far as they should be,” he said.

“Certainly in the past we have had care homes pick up the phone if that person has a curfew of 10pm and is not home for 10.05pm.

“When you phone the police, this kid in care has been picked up by a uniformed officer, put in the back of a police van, driven back to the care home and given an interview.

“The next day their social worker comes and gives them an interview and this kid has just done what all his friends have done.

“It’s really unfair to treat them differently because they are from a care setting because they already have the decks stacked against them through no fault of their own. That’s why we talk

about the education with the homes about what is normal teenage behaviour and at what point is there a real concern for safety.

“For the last few years that has been a key part of my job to build up that relationship.

“At the end of the day we are all trying to safeguard this child.”