A group of MPs has called for a police system for recording missing children to be scrapped because it does not safeguard them from harm.
An inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group for runaway and missing children and adults claimed around 10,000 children could be at risk because the police have classed them as ‘absent’ rather than ‘missing’ under the system, which was introduced in 2013.
Under the system, only child marked as ‘missing’ will receive an active police response.
The inquiry also heard of cases of children, who were classed as ‘absent’ but who had been groomed for sexual exploitation or drug running.
‘From Rotherham to Rochdale we have seen a pattern of young people and their families not being taken seriously,’ said inquiry chair, Ann Coffey.
'It is also shocking that there are unacceptable inconsistencies between and within police forces in their approach to missing children. It is now time for all police forces to abandon this hit and miss system. Children deserve the same protection wherever they live.
'There needs to be a joint risk assessment by police and children’s services otherwise children can be left at terrible risk which could have been prevented,’ added Ms Coffey.
The inquiry also recommends the police and children’s services jointly commission return home interviews for every missing child.
‘We strongly support the aims within this report to bring clarity and consistency to this highly complex issue, to make sure that organisations work together effectively to find missing children as quickly as possible,’ said the vice-chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, Cllr Richard Watts.
‘Any new approach to risk assessment should be developed alongside frontline social workers to make sure that it will work in practice.
‘It’s also vital that councils and others continue to focus on preventing children from going missing in the first place, and seek to understand the reasons that children have gone missing to provide the appropriate help and support on their return home,’ added Cllr Watts.