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Coventry Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual

Missing Child Procedure

RELATED CHAPTER

This document should be read in conjunction with the overarching Missing Child Policy.

AMENDMENT

In March 2017, Section 9, Safeguarding Children Missing from Education, was updated with regards to of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 which amended the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 (Pupil Registration). Section 10, Useful Links was also added.

Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Principles
  3. Identifying a Missing Child
    1. Looked After Children
    2. Looked After Children on External Activities
  4. Photographs
    1. Photographs of Looked After Children
    2. Children Subject to a Child Protection Plan
  5. Missing Child Investigations
    1. Publicity and Media Strategy
    2. Recording
  6. Location and Return of Missing Children
    1. Safe and Well Check
    2. Independent Return Interview
  7. Multi-Agency Review of Missing Children
  8. Proactive Management of Missing Children
    1. Responsibilities in relation to Looked After Children
    2. Intervention Strategies for Longer Absences and Repeated Missing Episodes
  9. Safeguarding Children Missing from Education
  10. Useful Links

    Appendix 1: How to Notify a Missing Coventry Child or Young Person

    Appendix 2: What to do if a Coventry Child goes Missing on an External Activity or Trip

    Appendix 3: What to do if an Out of City Child goes Missing while on Placement in Coventry

    Appendix 4: Missing/Absent Meetings Process for Children and Young People in Coventry

    Appendix 5: (CME) Children and Family First - Referral Form Guidance for Completion

    Appendix 6: Children Missing from Education (CME) Referral Form

1. Introduction

The response to missing children is a key safeguarding issue for the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) and all its partners. A robust response is required by all agencies. The purpose of this document is to outline the procedures for the effective multi-agency investigation of children who are missing from home, care and education. For the purposes of this document a child is anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. The procedure has been developed in accordance to the statutory Guidance on Children who Runaway or Go Missing from Home or Care (2014), Department for Education.

This procedure should be used in conjunction with CSCB Missing Child Policy which outlines the principles of managing the risk of missing children and the roles and responsibilities of different agencies.

Definition

The following definitions apply to this procedure and relate to children who runaway or go missing from home or care.

  • Young runaway: a child who has run away from their home or care placement, or feels that they have been forced or lured to leave;
  • Missing: anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggest the person may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves of another (ACPO definition);
  • Missing child: a child reported as missing to the Police by their family or carers;
  • Missing From Care: a looked after child who is not at their placement or place they are expected to be (e.g. school) and their whereabouts are unknown;
  • Absent: a person not at a place where they are expected or required to be (ACPO definition).

This procedure should be used in conjunction with other Coventry Safeguarding Children Board Procedures. These provide information to assist staff to recognise and manage circumstances in which children, who are missing, may be experiencing harm or be at risk of harm. These include:

2. Principles

The purpose of the procedures is to assist agencies and practitioners from all agencies to develop robust responses to children who runaway or go missing. The following safeguarding principles should be adopted by Coventry LSCB and its partner agencies in relation to identifying and locating children who go missing:

  • The safety and welfare of the child/young person is paramount;
  • Locating and returning the child to a safe environment is the main objective;
  • Understanding the circumstances of the child/young person going missing and seeking to reduce the risk of further episodes.

The aim of the procedure is:

  • To reduce the incidence of all children going missing and the risks associated with children who go missing;
  • To prevent the missing child suffering harm and to recover the child to safety as soon as possible.

3. Identifying a Missing Child

When a child is missing the parents or carers should make reasonable efforts to locate the individual before calling the Police. Parents and carers should complete the tasks outlined below prior to calling the Police, unless there is a reasonable belief that the child is at risk of harm or is especially vulnerable.

Failure to report a missing child to the Police could be reported as a safeguarding concern.

Initial Responsibilities for Parents and Carers

  • Search bedroom / house / outbuildings / vehicles;
  • Contact the child directly and any known friends and relatives where child may be;
  • Visit locations that the child is known to frequent, if it is safe to do so;
  • Check any social media platforms the child is known to use to determine whether they are updating their status.

Reasonable consideration should be given to allowing the child to return of their own accord, unless they are at risk of significant harm. For example, this might include waiting for the last bus to arrive.

If the child is still not located, or there is any information that suggests the child may be at risk of harm, they should be reported to the Police as missing.

Initial Responsibilities for Schools

  • Make telephone enquiries to the parent/carer/relatives;
  • Write to the parents/carers/relatives;
  • Visit the home of the child/relatives;
  • Speak to the child friends to ascertain their whereabouts.

Where contact is successfully made with parents/carers but a pupil's attendance continues to cause concern i.e. below 85%, normal protocol to support attendance would follow.

After a maximum of 10 days if the whereabouts of the child and family are still not known following these checks, the school should follow the steps outlined in Section 9, Safeguarding Children Missing from Education.

N.B. If the missing pupil, or any sibling, is subject to a Child Protection Plan, then action should be taken on the same day. Schools should refer to the Child Protection Plan and inform the Key Worker of the child's circumstances immediately. If the child is Looked After by the Local Authority, then the child's Social Worker and/or carer should be contacted directly.

3.1 Looked After Children

Children who are looked after by, or on behalf of, the local authority are over-represented in the cohort of children who go missing repeatedly. The local authority is expected to act as a ‘good parent’ and must act with reasonable consideration to the presenting risk.

When a looked after child is missing the carers must decide whether the child is missing or classified as away from their placement without authorisation. This decision should be taken in conjunction with senior residential home staff, or the foster carer and supervising social worker, the child’s social worker or the emergency duty team. Reference must be made to the risk assessment. Other professionals currently working with the child may also be consulted. A decision should not be delayed in order to consult with other professionals. It is better to make a decision on the best information available. The appropriate action to be taken following a decision is detailed below.

The fact that the child may have gone missing on a number of previous occasions does not reduce the risk. Children who repeatedly go missing are often being enticed away from their placement by activities that they see as exciting or by predatory influences. Short absences may be as risky as lengthy ones.

Required Action - Away from Placement without Authorisation Required Action - Missing
  • Make enquiries to locate the child and search premises;
  • Do not inform Police at this stage;
  • Inform family and those with parental responsibility;
  • Where action already agreed in risk assessment, inform and discuss with on call manager, social worker, or emergency duty team;
  • Review decision not to call Police at hourly intervals to reassess the category of absence;
  • Once child has been missing for 6 hours, escalate to missing.

In all cases a record must be made of who has been notified and the information disclosed to them.

  • Complete initial responsibilities for parents and carers;
  • Report child missing to the Police providing full details;
  • Inform on-call manager;
  • Inform family and those with parental responsibility;
  • Inform social worker or emergency duty team.

In all cases a record must be made of who has been notified and the information disclosed to them.

The Emergency Duty Team (EDT) should always be informed by the Social Worker of all looked after children who are missing for a period of 24 hours. This notification should be made by the residential home staff or foster carer at weekends and other out of hour’s times.

3.2 Looked After Children on External Activities

If a looked after child goes missing during an external activity, including those outside the area where the child usually resides, the person in charge of the activity must inform the:

  • Police in the area where the child has gone missing;
  • Child’s family or person with parental responsibility for the child;
  • Child’s social worker and the emergency duty team in the area the child usually resides;
  • Foster carer or the manager of the home where the child is placed. This person will then ensure the procedures for a missing child are followed.

It is important that communication about the missing child is maintained between all those who have been notified and the Police both in the area where they are missing and the area where the child usually resides.

If a child / young person from Coventry is placed out of City and goes missing, the expectation is that the Host authority will notify the Coventry social worker. The social worker is required to notify the missing children’s team immediately by email MissingChildAccount@coventry.gcsx.gov.uk. Once this has been done, the missing children’s team will update the missing work space on Protocol. The social worker does not have to do this, they need only to record the contact on Protocol (please see Appendix 4: Missing/Absent Meetings Process for Children and Young People in Coventry). The allocated social worker should follow any child protection process required as part of the missing episode.

If a child / young person from out of city and placed in Coventry goes missing it is the responsibility of the care placement in Coventry to inform the young person’s Home local authority/social worker. A decision in consultation with the placing authority needs to be made as to whether there are child protection concerns which require investigation as detailed in Working Together 2015 and who the responsible authority is to undertake such investigation.

When reporting a missing child to the Police the person making the referral should provide to the Police as much information as possible. The minimum information that must be provided is:

  • Name of the person missing, including aliases, nicknames;
  • Age and date of birth;
  • Description of the person, including gender and ethnicity;
  • Description of missing person's appearance, including clothing;
  • The last known location of the person

If possible, a recent photograph should also be provided.

Information to be provided to Police, wherever possible when reporting includes:

  • The child's legal status including any bail conditions or court orders regarding residence;
  • Are they an asylum seeker? If so, their immigration status;
  • Home address (If the person is in the care of an external agency does a protocol apply?);
  • Location missing from if different from above;
  • Mobile phone numbers of missing person;
  • Vehicles or transport used by missing person;
  • Access to money and details of cash cards;
  • Details of medication and any illness;
  • Address of GP and dentist;
  • Circumstances of going missing;
  • Whether the behaviour is out of character;
  • Cultural issues to consider e.g. possible honour crime;
  • Has this happened before and details of previous incidents;
  • Name, address and telephone number of person reporting;
  • Details of any known acquaintances;
  • Details of any searched and enquiries already carried out;
  • Identify dangers in the immediate vicinity especially for vulnerable young missing persons e.g. ponds, rivers.

4. Photographs

Providing a recent photograph of a missing child to the Police is vital to the investigation. The photograph must be a good likeness of the child and should identify the date the photograph was taken, to identify its relevance to the enquiry. The photograph will be used by the Police to help them identify the child whilst conducting enquiries.

In very serious cases, where the child is believed to be at severe risk, the Police and local authority may decide to use the photograph more widely, including publishing the photograph to national or local media.

4.1 Photographs of Looked After Children

On admission to care, the consent of a person with parental responsibility will be sought for a photograph to be used in any subsequent missing person investigation. If possible the consent of the child should also be gained.

The children’s home manager or foster carer should consider the most appropriate ways to meet the above requirements and should ensure that the child is made aware of what will happen if they go missing, including their right to be interviewed by an independent person on their return, and be given a choice as to who that may be.

4.2 Children Subject to a Child Protection Plan

Children who are reported as missing and who have a Child Protection Plan or who are subject to a Section 47 Enquiry need additional action to that required for other children.

The social worker must notify the following people:

  • Local Authority Designated Manager for Children Subject to Child Protection Plans;
  • Independent Reviewing Officer;
  • Clinical Commissioning Group’s Designated Nurse;
  • Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit;
  • Local Police (through dialling 101);
  • Core Group members.

The social worker should also ensure that a Strategy Meeting is arranged as soon as practicable and in any event within 5 working days. If the child returns before the Strategy Meeting is held then the Strategy Meeting should still go ahead. The Strategy Meeting should be attended by Police as well as other practitioners involved with the child. The Police representative should be from the Police Protection Unit or an appropriate Local Policing Unit officer.

Where a child with a Child Protection Plan has gone missing the social worker must notify the Safeguarding Unit who will implement the national Notification of Missing Children/Persons Procedure, where appropriate.

If a missing child has not been located within seven days of the initial report the social worker should consider the need for an urgent Child Protection Review Conference. In all cases, a Child Protection Review must be held within four weeks of the child going missing to determine what further action should be taken to ensure the safety of the child.

While the child remains absent, the case should be identified as ‘open’ on the Children’s Social Care Services client database.

5. Missing Child Investigations

When receiving a report of a missing child the Police will carry out a risk assessment and classify the child as either missing or absent. This frames the Police response to the incident. A new risk assessment will be carried out on each occasion that a child goes missing.

Where a child has been classified as absent parents and carers should ensure that any new information is shared with the Police. The Police will regularly review their classification and will escalate cases where there is an increasing concern about the level of risk to a child.

The Police will notify the children missing team at the earliest opportunity, using the Compact system.

When the Police classify a child as missing they will carry out enquiries, which are proportionate to the perceived risk, aimed at locating the child as soon as possible. There are three levels of risk.

Risk Definition
High The risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the subject is in danger through their own vulnerability, or may have been the victim of a serious crime, or the risk posed is immediate and there are substantial grounds for believing that the public is in danger.
Medium The risk posed is likely to place the subject in danger, or they are a threat to themselves or others.
Low There is no apparent risk of danger to either the subject or the public. (It is unusual for any missing child to be considered low risk).

The lines of enquiry that parents and carers can expect the Police to follow are described opposite.

The Police will:

  • Establish the facts and gather sufficient information about the missing person for an effective investigation and informed decision making;
  • Where appropriate, consider using the services of interpreters to assist information gathering;
  • Establish the family composition, history, any previous Police or other agency involvement with the family, including previous missing episodes that were not reported to the Police;
  • Establish the last sighting of the child and the circumstances of the disappearance.
  • Not delay any action required to facilitate the immediate recovery of the missing child;
  • Seek assistance to complete urgent enquiries where this may be critical for the safe return of the missing child;
  • Ask for details of any travel pass that child may have; savings accounts; and family addresses;
  • Confirm known acquaintances and other details that should have been given during the initial report;
  • Determine any circumstances which might increase the risk to the child;
  • Obtain statements from the reporting person and relevant witnesses;
  • Complete form WG428;
  • Obtain a recent photograph. The informant should sign the rear of the photograph to endorse its validity, include the name of the missing person, date of birth if known and the approximate date the photograph was taken;
  • Obtain permission for publicity and make sure that the WG428 is endorsed accordingly;
  • Conduct a thorough search of the place the child is missing from and its surroundings. This will be done even if carers have already done so and should include all rooms, cupboards and furniture where a person could hide or could have been hidden, attics, cellars, outhouses, garages, garden, grounds and all vehicles. Any area which is not searched due to lack of ready access will be recorded for review by a supervisory officer;
  • Need to see and obtain a copy of any Care Orders. This could be helpful in determining Police action and powers should the person be traced;
  • Provide ‘Information for the Family / Person Reporting’ form to the person who is the point of contact for the Police;
  • Consider the possibility that the child may have been admitted to hospital either unconscious or having given false details. They may also give false details if taken into custody.

5.1 Publicity and Media Strategy

As the lead agency in the investigation of a missing child, the Police, in consultation with children social care, will take a lead role in advising the media regarding any missing child.

When a child is missing from home, the Police will liaise with the child’s parents about informing the press.

When a child is missing from care, the decisions to inform the media will be taken at a senior level by the Police together with the Director of Children’s Services (DCS) who will inform the Executive Director People. The media should only be informed when all inquiries have been exhausted and following an updated risk assessment determining the level of risk as being high.

Any publicity will be arranged at a local level, by direction of the Divisional Commander, or an appropriate person nominated by them. Parents should always be informed of details being released to the media, prior to any such released. Where appropriate this should be carried out through the child’s social worker.

The Police will automatically inform the Missing People Charity of all missing children, as, follows:

  • Within 4 hours if high risk;
  • Within 72 hours if medium risk;
  • Within 14 days if low risk.

The Police may also utilise the website facility of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children to publicise the need to locate a missing child.

5.2 Recording

All agencies should note their discussions, decisions, actions and any messages received and given when dealing with a child who has gone missing. This applies whether they are classed as missing, absent or away from their placement without authorisation.

Where the child is known to children’s social care the child’s social worker, or other agreed lead professional, must log the missing episode on Protocol but should not enter it onto the missing workspace within the ICS system This will be done by the missing children’s team.

Residential unit staff and foster carers should record relevant information in the daily log, with a duplicate entry in the child’s file. Photocopies will suffice for this purpose.

6. Location and Return of Missing Children

When a missing child is found their parents and carers must be informed immediately. If the child has returned home of their own accord, or is found by parents or carers then they must inform the Police immediately. The Police will also notify any other person, or agency that has been notified of the missing child must also then be notified of their return.

The Police will notify the missing children’s team of the child’s / young person’s return via the computer system, Compact.

In most circumstances the parents or carers should make arrangements to transport the child to their home address, or placement if they have not returned of their own accord.

If a child is found in circumstances that are considered unsafe the Police can consider whether to use their powers to take a child into Police protection. The Police do not have the power to use force to take a child into Police protection. If there are insufficient grounds to instigate Police protection, or the child does not cooperate then the Police must liaise with children’s social care to agree what steps may be appropriate and necessary to safeguard the child. If the child is subject to a care order then the local authority should actively consider approaching the courts for a recovery order.

6.1 Safe and Well Check

The Police will conduct a safe and well check for all children who are found following a missing episode. This will include establishing whether they have been a victim of crime offering any medical attention if required, where this has not already been established by parent, carers, or other agency professional that located the child.

The safe and well check must be conducted by an appropriately trained Police Officer face to face with the child who went missing. The interview seeks to establish basic information about the missing episode including where the child went, what they did, and who they were with. If the child makes an allegation of crime that occurred whilst they were missing or that contributed to them running away, the officer will record this allegation and take appropriate action

As part of the safe and well check the Police are required to advise the young person and parent / carer / placement that the young person will be offered a Return Home interview (RHI). If the child or young person is LAC this will be undertaken by a person independent of the care setting or home.

6.2 Independent Return Interview

The Return home interview is triggered by the missing team having been notified through Compact that the young person has been found or has returned. The missing team will allocate a member of staff to undertake the RHI.

Interviews should be conducted within 72 hours of receipt of notification that the child has returned. The venue may be influenced by the wishes and feelings of the child or young person.

The child can ask to be accompanied by a responsible adult of their choosing. If they would like to be accompanied by a responsible adult but cannot identify someone who they are happy with to accompany them, an advocate should be available to fulfil this role.

On completion of the RHI the missing team will finalise the episode on the missing space on Protocol. This should not be completed by anyone else.

The interview should cover the areas outlined below.

The purpose of the Independent Return Interview is to give the young person an opportunity to discuss the circumstances of the missing episode and to feel that they are being listened to. The process should address the following:

  • Identify and deal with any harm the child has incurred. Their medical condition should be discussed immediately and any need for medical attention assessed;
  • Identify if the child has been the victim of, or involved in, any criminal activity;
  • Understand and address the reasons the child ran away. The child's living arrangements/placement might need to be reviewed;
  • Try to avoid it happening again;
  • Indicate whether child and their family or carers require additional support to meet the child's needs and prevent further episodes;
  • Inform the child that the findings from the return interview will be referred to a Multi-Agency Screening Panel, where any additional support can be coordinated.

7. Multi-Agency Review of Missing Children

A daily screening panel will review all notifications of Missing and absent, allocate the Return Home Interview (RHI) to all missing young people who have been found or returned, and assess the risk level / concerns about any young people who are notified as absent, so that where appropriate resource for can be allocated for RHI. The RHI will identify whether any immediate action is required to minimise risk or offer additional support. If at any point safeguarding concerns are identified these must be immediately raised with children social care and if required child protection processes followed.

Information collected / known about young people will then be taken (in all cases of missing and absent) to a monthly multi-agency triage meeting, from which individual young people will be routed either:

  • To the CSE / Missing oversight group (COG) if CSE concerns are identified; or 
  • Missing operational Group (MOG) if there are no identified CSE concerns but there may be other issues e.g. school / education, worrying pattern of absences, concern about potential involvement in grooming for crime or gang membership. 

Both panels will result in agreement about the necessary support and intervention required.

8. Proactive Management of Missing Children

8.1 Responsibilities in relation to Looked After Children

The Care Plan

A care plan is produced for each child that becomes looked after. This must include consideration of the vulnerability and risk of the child becoming missing and consider appropriate actions should this occur. Previous missing episodes or an identified potential to go missing should trigger a full risk assessment on admission to care. This process should apply prior to each accommodation arrangement for a looked after child.

Care Plans must be kept under review and should be revised, as appropriate. As a minimum they should be reviewed at, placement reviews and looked after reviews. Looked after reviews are chaired by an independent reviewing officer. The officer should, therefore, be informed of missing and absent episodes and should address these in statutory reviews. Statutory reviews provide an opportunity to check that a child’s Care Plan has been appropriately amended to address the reasons why they were absent and includes a strategy to prevent re-occurrence should the child go missing in future. It may be necessary to convene a review to consider whether the placement is able to put in place a strategy to minimise any risk to the child, or whether it may be necessary to look for an alternative placement in order to keep the child safe.

Risk Assessment

Individual risk assessments are an essential part of keeping children safe as they enable carers to be clear what the risks are for the particular child and any risks they might pose to the public.

Carers, and residential home staff, should use the High Risk Missing Nominal Victim Profile/Support Plan, Risk Assessment and Trigger Plan to inform their decisions about action to take, and when to inform the Police, that a child has gone missing.

If there is a high risk of the child going missing or a previous history of this a risk management plan should be in place. This should be completed by the social worker in conjunction with the foster carer or residential home staff.

The child and, if appropriate, their parents or carers should be involved in the risk assessment and, if appropriate, be given a copy of it.

Essential Element for Risk Assessments:

  • Child's view on current placement and the stability of their relationships at home;
  • Level of supervision and support that care staff propose to provide for the child;
  • The degree of risk to the child if they go missing;
  • The views of parents/carers on their child's needs and the action that needs to be taken if their child is missing;
  • Consideration of any external influences which may result in a child's removal without consent;
  • Peer associations which are of concern?
  • Pull push factors.

It should be explained to the child what actions will be taken if they absent themselves from care without permission.

Information that forms the risk assessment should be shared with all agencies working with the child. It should also be included in the placement plan and in the child’s care plan. The care plan should inform the decision as to which placement will be most suited to meeting the child’s needs.

Where there is a risk of a child going missing, the risk assessment, placement plan and care plan must include a strategy to prevent the child absconding. As part of this assessment it may be appropriate for the local authority to consult with the Police to share information that may be of relevance.

Looked After Children Trafficked from Abroad

Some of the children that a Local Authority looks after may be unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Some of this group may have been trafficked into the UK and are likely to remain under the influence of their traffickers, even whilst they are looked after. They will be subject to the same care plan and risk assessment procedure as all other looked after children. However, consideration must be given to their particular circumstances and assessments will need to be sensitively managed. Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe place before any assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately. The location of the child should not be divulged to any enquirer until their identity and relationship with the child has been established, if necessary with the help of Police and immigration services.

The assessment must seek to establish:

  • Relevant details about the child’s background before coming to the UK;
  • An understanding of the reasons that the child came to the UK;
  • Analysis of the child’s vulnerability to remaining under the influence of traffickers.

The local authority should work together with staff in the UK Border Agency. Border Agency staff will be familiar with patterns of trafficking into the UK and may be able to assess whether the child fits the profile of a potentially trafficked child.

8.2 Intervention Strategies for Longer Absences and Repeated Missing Episodes

All agencies will operate an escalating system of interventions to reduce the likelihood of a child repeatedly going missing.

Intervention Strategy meetings should take place in the event of repeat episodes of children going missing from home or care. These meetings should be multi-agency and hold the status of Strategy Meetings. They should have a clearly identified purpose and attendance. The meeting should be held within 3 days of any of the following trigger episodes.

Meetings should be held as described in the table below.

All meetings should be recorded and chaired by the Service Manager, Team Manager or Senior Practitioner.

Meetings at the higher level should only be required for a small number of children. There will be some children who go missing repeatedly within a short period of time. In these cases the higher level of intervention will immediately apply.

Level Three episodes in 30 days
Or
Three episodes in 12 months
Or
One episode of three days or more
Seven missing episodes in 30 days
Or
One episode of five days or more
Attendance
  • Senior practitioner;
  • Social worker (if currently working with the child);
  • Local Police officer;
  • Residential worker, foster carer or parent / carer;
  • School representative;
  • Missing coordinator;
  • Other relevant professional or partner agency.
  • Children's services team manager or service Manager depending on the level of concern;
  • Missing coordinator;
  • Local Police sergeant;
  • Residential home manager / family placement manager or parent / carer;
  • Health representative;
  • School representative;
  • Other relevant professional or partner agency.
Purpose
  • Identify any 'push' or 'pull' factors;
  • Identify other agencies that could provide support;
  • Establish other agencies working with child;
  • Consider whether child is being harboured, exploited or radicalised and take appropriate action.
  • Ensure that there is a clear statement of the actions being taken in respect of the child's absence;
  • Ensure all that should be done is being done;
  • Seeking to reduce future missing episodes and reduce any apparent risks to the child;
  • Provide quality assurance of compliance with the protocols and the efficiency of earlier intervention meetings and return interviews.
Longer absences

All children that have been missing for 3 days or more a notification must be sent to the Service Manager who will inform the Head of Service If the child is still missing (for over five days), there should be further discussions between the senior managers of all relevant agencies. This is to review the action taken, agree further action, plan a debrief of the child when found and make proposals to prevent a reoccurrence if appropriate. The Head of service will inform the Director Childrens Services (DCS).

If the missing person has not been located after three months senior managers from all agencies involved in the intervention strategy should formally review the case. They should satisfy themselves on the actions taken by all agencies in the attempt to recover the child. This will include a review by the Police. A senior investigating officer will review the file, after consultation with the superintendent of the local policing unit. The superintendent is responsible for deciding whether the investigation should remain live or be suspended pending further information.

N.B. Please note some children who do not meet the above trigger points may need a multi-agency meeting with a clear care plan therefore professionals need to use their professional judgement.

9. Safeguarding Children Missing from Education

This section sets out the actions to be taken when a child is missing from school.

Children Missing Education: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (Department for Education, 2015) sets key principles to enable local authorities to implement their legal duty to identify children missing education (CME) and get them back into education. The following procedure should be read in conjunction with this Children Missing Education Statutory Guidance (GOV.UK).

Schools and colleges must also have regard to statutory guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education (2016), which provides further guidance as to how they should fulfil their duties in respect of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in their care.

Introduction

All children, regardless of their circumstances, are entitled to a full time education which is suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they may have. Local authorities have a duty to establish, as far as it is possible to do so, the identity of children of compulsory school age who are missing education in their area.

Children missing education are at risk of not achieving their full potential. These children also have the potential to be exposed to higher degrees of risk. These risks could include engagement in anti-social or criminal behaviour, social disengagement and or sexual exploitation. Whenever a child is missing from education, the possibility of trafficking, sexual or commercial exploitation must be assessed. A child going missing from education is also a potential indicator of abuse or neglect. It is vital that all practitioners work together to identify and re-engage children missing from education as quickly as possible.

The purpose of this section is to describe the procedures that are to be employed within Coventry to identify, engage and locate children who are missing education. Adopting these procedures will ensure professionals who work with children and families, the local authority, schools and other services are able to:

  • Meet statutory duties relating to the provision of education and safeguarding the welfare of children missing education;
  • Ensure robust systems are in place to enable services and professionals to meet their duty in relation to children missing education.

Definition

For the purpose of this section, children missing education refers to all children of compulsory school age (5-16yrs):

  • Who are not on a school roll or receiving suitable education otherwise than at school (e.g. privately, electively home educated or in an alternative provision);
  • Registered at a Coventry school but their family has moved without providing a forward address or details of a new school;
  • Who are registered at a school but for a substantial period of time (usually agreed as ten days or more), have not attended school or alternative education without provision of reasonable explanation).

This will include anyone who:

  • Has been excluded from school and is not yet receiving full-time education;
  • Is out of school pending a managed move and is not on a school roll;
  • Is on a part-time timetable other than those who are certified medically unfit to access full-time education;
  • Is newly arrived in the City and does not as yet have a school place;
  • Has been withdrawn from school by their guardian but has not informed the Local Authority of an intention to electively home educate;
  • Is electively home educated and the LA, following an EHE visit, is not satisfied that the provision parents/carers have secured is suitable;
  • Is of statutory school age but has not been registered for a reception class entry;
  • Has come to the end of a phase of education (e.g. primary) and has not registered for a secondary school placement;
  • Has been detained, released and does not have or is not accessing a school placement or appropriate full-time alternative provision option;
  • Is identified as a ‘missing child’.

This definition/duty does not include children who are registered at a school who are not attending regularly. Schools already have a duty to monitor attendance and to take action, involving other agencies where appropriate.

Systems and procedures for encouraging regular attendance should be clearly set out in each school's Attendance Policy and make clear links with the CAF windscreen, Curriculum, Behaviour, Health, Anti-bullying and Emotional Wellbeing Policies. The Attendance Policy should identify how individual cases are managed, how the school works proactively with parents and pupils to ensure that they understand why attendance is important, as well as include an escalation of interventions that will be used.

Required Actions

By Schools

As a result of daily registration, schools, including academies and free schools, are particularly well placed to notice when a child has gone missing. The law requires all schools to have an admission register and an attendance register. All pupils must be placed on both registers. Schools must monitor pupils’ attendance through their daily register.

School staff should follow the school’s procedures for dealing with children that go missing from education to help identify the risk of abuse and neglect, including sexual exploitation, and to help prevent the risks of their going missing in future. They should put in place appropriate safeguarding policies, procedures and responses for children who go missing from education, particularly on repeat occasions. It is essential that all staff are alert to signs to look out for and the individual triggers to be aware of when considering the risks of potential safeguarding concerns such as travelling to conflict zones, female genital mutilation and forced marriage.

Once a child has ceased to attend school, the school should make all reasonable enquiries to try and ascertain the child’s whereabouts, before making a referral to the Children and Families First Service.

During a normal transition phase (e.g. reception, primary to secondary), a child becomes the responsibility of the new school when the child has been ‘allocated’ a place. All schools need to adopt this principle to prevent children from ‘falling through the net’ and becoming missing/lost.

School reasonable enquiries:

  • Make telephone enquiries to the parent/carer/relatives;
  • Write to the parents/carers/relatives;
  • Visit the home of the child/relatives;
  • Speak to the child friends to ascertain their whereabouts.

Where contact is successfully made with parents/carers but a pupil’s attendance continues to cause concern i.e. below 85%, normal protocol to support attendance would follow.

After a maximum of 10 days, if the whereabouts of the child and family are still not known following these checks, the school should complete the Children Missing Education referral form Appendix A and forward to the:

Children and Families First Service (CFFS),
Moseley Avenue,
Coventry,
CV6 1AB

via the BSC Functional Email: BSCCoundon@coventry.gov.uk (Telephone: 02476786879).

Headteachers are required to inform the CFFS School worker and CFFS CME Officer of any child who has not attended for 4 weeks without provision of reasonable explanation.

N.B. If the missing pupil, or any sibling, is subject to a Child Protection Plan, then action should be taken on the same day. Schools should refer to the Child Protection Plan and inform the Key Worker of the child's circumstances immediately.

Similarly, if the child is Looked After by the Local Authority, then the child's Social Worker should be contacted directly.

Other missing families might also give cause for concern, for example, if domestic violence has been a known feature of family life. Schools will need to decide whether these children are at risk and should be referred immediately to Social Care.

If a parent advises the school the child is to leave a school, the following information is required:

  • Parent/carer contact details;
  • Address moving to;
  • Intended educational provision if known;
  • If leaving the country / area, date of departure, flight details. If returning, expected date of return;
  • Specific concerns e.g. health, Domestic Violence, Forced Marriage, Child sexual Exploitation.

These enquires will support the CME officer in verifying the location of the child and agreeing as to whether or not the child can be taken off roll.

Schools also have responsibilities in relation to keeping the LA informed about children on their roll but not attending school for reasons of exclusion or alternative educational arrangements having been made:

  • All fixed term exclusions should be reported to the LA (this is a legal requirement);
  • Informal exclusions are not used under any circumstances, i.e. students must not be sent home without a formal exclusion process (informal exclusions are illegal);
  • Part-time timetables are used only in exceptional circumstances and only for an agreed short fixed period of time with a clear plan of reintegration. Arrangements for part-time study should be clearly explained to parents/carers and the details recorded in the student’s Personal Support Plan.

For children missing education for the reasons above, the headteacher must notify the Special Educational Needs Service on 02476 831614 or Email the SEN inbox: SEN@coventry.gcsx.gov.uk.

By Other Agencies

Where any agency or person in contact with children and families believes that a child is not on the roll of a school or receiving education otherwise, then this information should be passed to The Children and Families First Service CME Officer. Local and national information can be sent directly to the CME Officer via Email: BSCCoundon@coventry.gov.uk or Telephone: 02476786879.

On occasions, practitioners may not be 100% sure if a child is missing education or not. In these situations please contact the Children and Families First School Worker attached to a school or speak directly to CME officer to discuss the case to consider if a referral needs to be made.

By The Children and Families First Service

The Children and Families First Service CME Officer is responsible for receiving details of children missing from education and for brokering support for them through the most appropriate agencies.

The CFFS CME Officer will add the child’s details to Coventry’s CME database and record the child on the secure national internet site, s2s, facilitated by the DfE. On the Coventry CME database all notifications are recorded under one of the following categories:

  • AP: Awaiting Placement;
  • BLA: Believed to have Left Area;
  • BLC: Believed to have Left Country/to be verified;
  • FE: Failed to enrol in school or in transition and not electively home educated;
  • DME: Deemed Medically Unfit to attend school.

They remain there until an educational placement is confirmed and can be coded as:

  • P = Placed.

The CME officer will make all reasonable efforts to identify the child’s current whereabouts/destination. This will include:

  • Checks through Council databases to establish whether the child has moved within the Coventry or out of area;
  • A home visit to make enquiries at home (or known contacts) and neighbours as appropriate;
  • Contact with other agencies known to be involved with the family;
  • Checks with Housing, Department for Work and Pensions where appropriate;
  • Checks with other Local Authority where the child may be living;
  • Checks with Police and Social Care.

If at any time during the checking process, the child is located, the Children

Missing Education Officer will:

  • Advise the school, informing them of any action to be taken;
  • Where a forwarding address is identified, contact will be made with the Education Welfare Service of the new Local Authority. Once the location of the child is established, the relevant local authority must ensure the child is receiving an education by attending a school or otherwise;
  • Children’s Social Work Service and/or Police where appropriate;
  • If the child is located and confirmed on a school roll, the referral is closed;
  • If the child is located in Coventry but the child remains off roll / not attending school or otherwise, the Children and Families First Service has other duties and powers to support their work on CME. The child will remain flagged as CME until that child is placed on a school roll;
  • If the child remains missing the CME Officer will repeat checks on a half-termly basis until it is agreed that all enquiries have been exhausted.
By the Admissions Team

The Admissions Team will be the Lead Professional with regard to the following cohorts of children:

  • Pre-school children from the point of application to when attendance is confirmed;
  • Children transferring between mainstream schools in Coventry;
  • Children transferring between phases (e.g. Primary to Secondary);
  • Children from the point of application who have moved into Coventry requiring new provision.

The Coventry database will record the last known provision and details of all children missing education.

The Admissions Team also provides:

  • Support and advice to schools on admissions policy and processes;
  • Advice to parents on the process of applying for places and the availability of places;
  • Ensure that families are supported to find an accessible school place and work with CFFS to follow up actions where parents refuse to engage;
  • Ensure sufficiency of school places.

Where these processes do not result in a child being on roll at a school, there are processes in place to ensure that children are appropriately referred to agencies / teams to ensure that support is provided and children are tracked until they are on roll.

By the Statutory Assessment Service (SAS)

The Statutory Assessment Service will be the Lead Professional with regard to the following cohort of children:

  • Children new to City awaiting a special school placement;
  • Children moving into and out of City who have a Statement of Special Educational Needs or an Education Health and Care Plan;
  • Children who are electively home educated.

The Statutory Assessment Service provides support to parents/carers for children with statements and EHCP’s and tracks school placements for these children ensuring there are processes in place to ensure they are tracked until an appropriate school placement is identified and they have been enrolled. This service also monitors Elective Home Education for the City and works to ensure that any children deemed to not be receiving a suitable education are referred to the appropriate agency where there are identified concerns (e.g. CFF, Social Care).

By the Local Authority Data Team

The LA Data Team carries out data reconciliation procedures to ensure that once children appear on the roll of a Coventry School, they do not disappear. Any child who has left a Coventry School and whose destination is not known is followed up by the Children and Families First Service.

Removing pupils from the school roll

Schools should be aware of the strict Government regulations relating to deleting pupil names from the register. Schools should also be aware of the Children Missing Education: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (DfE, September 2016). A child can only be removed from a school roll in the limited circumstances which are listed in Regulation 8 of Education (Pupil Registration) Regulations 2006 (as amended by the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) (Amendment)Regulations 2016. All pupils who are removed from a school roll must comply with these regulations.

Specific attention is drawn to the following regulation categories:

  • Category H - States that a registered pupil has been continuously absent from school for a period of not less than twenty school days and both the proprietor of the school and the children and young people’s services have failed, after reasonable enquiry, to locate the pupil;
  • Category F - States that in the case of a registered pupil granted leave of absence exceeding ten school days for the purpose of a holiday, the pupil has failed to attend the school within the ten school days immediately following the expiry of the period for which such leave was granted, and the proprietor is not satisfied that the pupil is unable to attend the school by reason of sickness or any unavoidable cause;
  • Category D - States that a registered pupil has ceased to attend the school and the proprietor has received written notification from the parent/carer that the pupil is receiving education other than at school’. It is good practice and recommended in Coventry that a pupil should not be removed from the school roll until the Education department has confirmed that they have been satisfied that the parent/carer is able to provide a suitable education for that child. For further information on education at home by parents please see Educating your child at home (elective home education).

Where a child on a school roll is missing, the child’s name must not be removed from the school roll until they have been continuously absent for not less than twenty school days and both the school and the local authority have failed, after reasonable enquiry, to locate the pupil and their family.

In these circumstances the child’s name is kept on a centrally held register, and should be clearly identified as missing from education.

A child must not be removed from the school roll until notified by the CME Officer that it is appropriate to do so. It is essential that schools comply with this duty to ensure the Local Authority can, as part of their duty to identify children of compulsory school age who are missing education, follow up with any child who might be in danger of not receiving an education and who might be at risk of abuse or neglect.

Once the school has been advised they can take the child off roll, the school will then need to update the pupil record in SIMS.Net by entering a "Date of Leaving" and selecting a "Reason for Leaving" code in the "School History" section of the "Pupil Details" screen. The "Reason for Leaving" code selected should be "Other / Unknown".

Following this, the school should create a 'lost pupil' common transfer file (CTF) with XXXXXXX as the destination. This CTF should be immediately uploaded onto the DFE School2School secure internet site where it will be held in the Lost Pupil Database. This is underpinned by a statutory responsibility placed on schools and a description of the process is contained on the homepage for School to School Service: How to Transfer Information.

If a pupil leaves the UK, enters independent/private provision, or becomes home educated, then the school should send the pupil details to the lost pupils Database using the MMMMMMM destination code.

If at any time after the child has been removed from the school roll the school receive any information regarding the child’s whereabouts or are contacted by a receiving school, the Children and Families First Service must be informed.

The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2016

Children Missing Education: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (DfE, September 2016)

Missing Children: Who Cares? The police response to missing and absent children (HMIC, March 2016)

Appendix 1: How to Notify a Missing Coventry Child or Young Person

Click here to view Appendix 1: How to Notify a Missing Coventry Child or Young Person.

Appendix 2: What to do if a Coventry Child goes Missing on an External Activity or Trip

Click here to view Appendix 2: What to do if a Coventry Child goes Missing on an External Activity or Trip.

Appendix 3: What to do if an Out of City Child goes Missing while on Placement in Coventry

Click here to view Appendix 3: What to do if an Out of City Child goes Missing while on Placement in Coventry.

Appendix 4: Missing/Absent Meetings Process for Children and Young People in Coventry

Click here to view Appendix 4: Missing/Absent Meetings Process for Children and Young People in Coventry.

Appendix 5: (CME) Children and Family First - Referral Form Guidance for Completion

(CME) Children and Family First - Referral Form Guidance for completion

  • The key to successfully resolving CME cases is information. The more information we have the more likely we are to resolve the case and the sooner we are likely to do so;
  • The referral form tries to cover as much of the possible information we may require but each case is unique and we cannot cover every possibility without making the form unnecessarily complex. When investigating a potential referral please consider any other potentially helpful information you may have or could try and obtain in addition to that specified on the form;
  • Please answer direct questions Yes or NO. Only answer no if you are sure there is nothing to suggest a positive answer may be appropriate;
  • When completing the form please use additional sheets where necessary to ensure all details are included;
  • In order for us to assess as accurately as possible the priority of each case we have asked for a range of information about the child's circumstances. Please include all available information and consider if there are any possible links with the fact the child is a potential CME case or if the situation raises any concern that the child is or may become vulnerable. Even if the child has not been at your school very long you still know the children you are referring better than we do and are most likely to have access to key information. If necessary please consider contacting the child's previous school and speaking to their friends and the staff who know them best;
  • Please ensure that you keep all children's contact details complete and up-to-date and that you have details of their country of origin etc so that in the event of a possible CME referral information is available;
  • If you receive any indication of the possibility of a child leaving the country please try and obtain as much of the information in Section 8, Proactive Management of Missing Children, as possible. We appreciate families do not always give any indication and that it is not always possible to complete this in full. Where information is not available please indicate this on the form;
  • Schools and the Children and Families First Service need to work together in gathering information and Children and Family First (School Workers )are available to support, assist and advise schools throughout the process;
  • The Children and Family Service CME Officer is available for advice and support. Please contact us on 02476 786879 or email us on the BSC Coundon.gov.uk.

Appendix 6: Children Missing from Education (CME) Referral Form

Click here to view Appendix 6: Children Missing from Education (CME) Referral Form.