Alert raised over ‘missing’ children in care
7:23am Friday 22nd March 2013 in Local
CARE homes in Bolton may have to take more responsibility for children who go astray after police changed the way they handle missing person reports.
From April 1, police will only respond to reports of missing people if there is “a specific reason for concern”
and say they will no longer act as a “collection service” for troubled youngsters.
The move means that care homes will have to deal with more missing children cases themselves, prompting fears that youngsters could be put at risk.
Cllr Madeline Murray, Bolton Council’s cabinet member for looked after children, said: “I know the police have to prioritise, but I am worried that vulnerable people will be caught up in this.
“Police are not used as a collection service in Bolton. If people go missing it needs to be taken seriously.”
The NSPCC has also raised concerns, saying vulnerable children could be put at risk of sexual exploitation.
Senior police officers claim the change will allow them to improve the way forces deal with children who repeatedly go missing, however.
Police across the country deal with about 900 ‘missing’ reports per day, twothirds of which involve children.
Under the plans, police will class missing people as either “absent”, when a person simply does not arrive where they are expected to be, or “missing”, where there is a specific reason for concern.
The Association of Chief Police Officers, which instigated the change, say it will reduce the number of missing people cases they respond to by about one-third.
Supt Phil Davies, of Bolton police, said people will not “fall through the cracks”.
He said: “We have a clear, early risk assessment to decide whether the missing or absent category applies, and it will safeguard those who need it. With those who fall into the absent category we can seek help from other agencies.
“We are on top of child exploitation — it is one of our priorities.
But there is another bracket where, for example, a child has an argument with their care worker and runs away to a friend’s house for a few hours.”
A council spokesman was unable to say whether the local authority was changing its procedures as a result of the move, but said it has been “fully engaged with the system for some time”
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