Children and young people who go missing are invariably are exposed to risks which may cause harm to themselves or others, which they need to be safeguarded as far as possible from.
It is important that Thames Valley Police, Children’s Social Care, and other partners and agencies work together, alongside the family or carers to ensure that the child is found as quickly as possible.
The Police and Children Social Care will jointly make the decision whether to contact the media to assist in locating a missing child.
Definition of the term ‘missing’
The definitions as outlined in the Department for Education (DfE) and Association of Chief Police Officers guidance published in 2014, are used by the Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council to define when a child is missing or absent:
- Absent - not at a place they are expected to be.
- Missing - not at a place they are expected to be; but the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests they may be subject of a crime or at risk of harm to themselves or others.
Assurance have been given to us by Thames Valley Police that officers are taking into account the vulnerability of the child or young person when applying these definitions.
When a child is found
- Parents, Police, Social workers and all relevant others are advised of the child's return without delay
- When a child who has been reported missing is traced, a safe and well check is immediately undertaken by Thames Valley Police. This is then followed up with a missing return interview. Statutory guidance was issued in January 2014 (DfE) which states that return interviews should be carried out within 72 hours of the child returning.
- When a child is known to Children's Social Care or the Youth Justice Service, the interview will be carried out in 72 hours. If the child is not known, the Early Intervention Service or school will carry out the return interview.
- This is then reviewed by Thames Valley Police and Children Social Care to enable them to better understand the reasons and circumstances of why the child went missing, and how to prevent further occurrences of this risk for the child.
If a child remains missing
- A report should be made to the Police National Missing Persons' Bureau 28 days after going missing
- Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police should formally review all cases where children have been absent for six months or more to check all actions have been taken to find the child
- While the child remains missing, his or her case should be described as 'open' and should be reviewed at six monthly intervals
- All police missing children’s reports will remain open until the child is traced or until the Divisional Commander is satisfied all lines of enquiry have been exhausted. He will then forward the file to the Assistant Chief Constable who will take the decision to keep the case open or file the report.
- Where the Assistant Chief Constable has made the decision to file, the Force Intelligence Bureau will be responsible for bringing forward the file on persons who remain missing for review by the detective superintendent, 12 months after the file date