Posted: 17 March 2015

A missing children register will help police and young runaways

A child going missing is every parent’s worst nightmare.  If your child disappears you want to know that any police officer in the country would have information about the children missing and would look for these children, whether they went missing from their police force area or somewhere else in the country.

Shockingly there is no single system in place, no register of missing children. So if a child goes missing in one police force area and then turns up in another, the police officers there would not have quick access to important information about the missing child, and may not be able to identify the child and return them to safety.

We believe that the Government needs to change this. They need to create a single system of information sharing about all children who run away and go missing. Such a system would build on those that are already used by the police  and allow every police force to easily identify if a child they have met has been registered as missing or absent. 

The Chancellor has a chance to make a big difference to help protect missing children

With the Chancellor announcing the last budget of this Parliament this week he has a chance to make a small financial commitment which would make a big difference to help the police identify and protect missing children.

If a child goes missing across the boundaries of different police forces, the lack of mechanisms to share information about that child may lead to considerable delays in locating that child and returning him to the place of safety.

We supported a parliamentary inquiry into children going missing from care which found that such delays expose the children to great risks of sexual exploitation.

Many young people go missing again and again, often trying to escape problems at home or care, or because they’re enticed by perpetrators trying to exploit them. If the information about their missing episodes is available at the time they are reported as missing, police can access vital clues that could lead to a child being helped, rather than the child remaining missing for a longer period of time and at risk of serious harm.

The case for the register is strong

The missing person register is the way to ensure that information about vulnerable young people who go missing is shared within and across police forces and shared promptly.

It has been recommended by the Association of Chief Policy Offices, by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Young Runaways and  Missing Children and Adults, and just last week by the Public Accounts Committee

It is also the solution we advocate, and called for by almost 9,000 supporters who have signed our petition calling on the Home Office to implement it.

We estimate that after the introduction of new missing and absent definitions the Government has been saving more than £100 million annually – that’s around £200 million since the definitions were put in place in April 2013.

We believe that the time has come to reinvest some of the money saved into the creation of a register of missing children. This would allow the police to share data effectively and quickly about vulnerable missing children, help children’s services plan better support for children who go missing and most importantly help keep missing children safe. 

By Iryna Pona - Policy team