In June 2016 the Quality Assurance Groups (QAGs) undertook a Missing from Home themed audit to examine the quality of the Multi-Agency response to MFH cases, considering how well we protect children who go missing.
A total of 11 cases were audited by the QAGs this included 3 children placed out of County, 3 children with a single missing episode, 3 children previously unknown to Social Care and 2 children with multiple missing episodes. In addition to this the MFH pod in the Safeguarding Hub audited the cases of 3 children placed into the County by other authorities. The ages of children ranged from 10 years to 17 years, 9 were boys and 5 were girls.
As part of the audit process five young people whose cases were audited provided feedback on their experiences. This is what they told us:
One child said they ‘wouldn’t go missing if the staff would allow me to stay out overnight’. They said that they ‘would prefer not to be interviewed, I talk to the staff in the home if I need to’.
Another child told us about what happened when they went missing saying that ‘the police were really nice talking to me, took me home and made sure I was ok and safe. They asked why I went missing, where did I go, who did I see and was I safe.’ They also said the person who undertook their return interview was ‘nice’ and they had also talked to their social worker about the missing episode.
When asked about going missing one child told us that the person who had carried out their return home interview ‘was ok’ and they ‘felt listened to’.
Another child talked about their placement moves; they said they had moved placements a lot over the last year, mostly out of county and said that after living in small towns in Cumbria they had found city life hard and felt it was easier to get into trouble. They told us they didn’t speak to their social worker much but they did talk about going missing and the social worker checked they were ok. The child said they think that ‘you can only stop going missing if you sort your head out’.
A number of cases identified issues around the 72 hour timescale for completion of return home interviews with interviews being completed outside of the 72 hour timescale. For children who have a high level of missing and complex needs the QAGs felt it to be ‘almost impossible’ to sustain completion within 72 hours due to the often chaotic circumstances e.g. hospitalisation, custody and continuous periods of missing.
The QAGs found evidence of some good plans where risks were appropriately assessed and robust actions were in place. However, in some cases audited the plan was not always reducing risk for the child and needed to be reviewed.
When a child has gone missing the return interview must be discussed and analysed alongside the child’s plan and risk assessment. Where a child already has an established pattern of running away, the child’s plan should include a strategy about keeping the child safe and minimising the likelihood of the child running away in the future.
There was evidence of Stage 1 and 2 intervention meetings taking place, but this was not consistent. There were some children who hit the threshold for stage 1 and/or stage 2 and meetings were not held. In some instances the right agencies were not being invited to the stage 1 and 2 intervention meetings
Have you read the ‘Children who go Missing from Care or Home’procedure?
A stage 1 intervention meeting must be held where a child has been missing for 5 episodes within a 90 day rolling period and a stage 2 intervention meeting must be held when there are 9 missing episodes within a 90 day rolling period. The procedure also lists the agencies who should attend these meetings.
For children placed by other authorities into Cumbria the audit found that the work of Cumbria Police and the join up with the Safeguarding Hub was good in all three cases audited. However, it was clear from the audit that when a return home interview is requested from an external placing authority it is very unlikely that it will be returned to the Safeguarding Hub.