19.11 Missing Children
Last updated 23/09/2021
Research suggests that significant numbers of children who are categorised as unaccompanied asylum seeking children have also been trafficked. Some of these children go missing (back into the care of the traffickers) before being properly identified as victims of trafficking. Such cases should be urgently reported to the police.
Local authorities should consider seriously the risk that a trafficked child is likely to go missing and take this into account in planning that child’s care. All placements should be given a copy of this guidance. A contingency plan could include contact details of agencies that should be notified if a potentially trafficked young person goes missing including the police and the UKBA. Where there are concerns that a trafficked child has been moved to elsewhere in the country away from their care placement, then it may be helpful to contact Missing People (see section 2c of the Trafficked Children Toolkit for more information and contact details for Missing People).
Missing People have a team that offers support to local authorities when young people in their care go missing and this service can advise on issues such as contact with other police forces and national publicity.
When the police receive the notification of a missing child they should follow the LSCB Missing Children Procedures following guidance: The Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons.
The guidance sets out that:
- Every missing person’s report should be assessed to identify the level of risk (high, medium or low) to the missing person;
- The response should be appropriate to the level of risk;
- The risk assessment should be continuously reviewed; and
- Children who go missing from care are vulnerable and the level of risk does not diminish because of frequency of absence.
All local authorities should appoint a designated senior manager with responsibility for monitoring missing from care incidents, so that trends can be identified and action taken in conjunction with the LSCB to respond to the problem. Trends should also be shared with the LSCB. The designated senior manager has the potential to take an important strategic role in safeguarding children who may have been trafficked, identifying whether there are any particular patterns of children (such as unaccompanied asylum seeking children) going missing that could provide evidence suggesting that young people are being trafficked, which might be used by a local authority to inform their analysis as to how they might better safeguard these children.
As it is recognised that children who go missing shortly after Asylum Screening Unit (ASU) screening may have been trafficked, immigration staff should follow an agreed process to inform the appropriate authorities.