Ellen Broome, Director of Policy at The Children’s Society, said:
'While the evaluation touches upon the issue, its purpose was to assess efficiency savings and not safeguarding implications. We would like to see a specific evaluation on this.
'The police say that they found no evidence during the three month pilots that children came to harm as a result of new definitions. But children that go missing are at risk from sexual exploitation and grooming that can happen over months or years.
'Safeguarding vulnerable children is a long term issue, and these pilots alone are too limited to draw any definite conclusion. It is absolutely essential that when these new definitions are rolled out across the country, police monitor how safeguarding is affected in each area over time and that appropriate measures are in place to protect children.
'There are also questions about who is making the vitally important decision to classify a child as ‘absent’ or ‘missing’, and whether they have an adequate understanding of the risks to children.
'If it is contact centre staff as the report suggests, then are they getting adequate guidance and training about risks for these vulnerable children? Will they be trained, for example, in how to spot the warning signs for child sexual exploitation and grooming?
'Lastly, we’d like to see a commitment that the potential savings made from these changes is invested back into proactively safeguarding vulnerable children. That would give us confidence that this isn’t just a cost-savings exercise.'
Notes to editors
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