Very rarely is an episode of missing straightforward
As a father and grandfather, the thought of my children or grandchildren going missing fills me with horror. For most of us it is almost unimaginable .....until it happens.
Very rarely is an episode of missing straightforward. We know that children who go missing are more likely to have links to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), domestic abuse, neglect, grooming, gangs or drugs.
For anyone this would be a frightening situation, but even more so if that person is a child or young person.
Over time, police and local authorities have begun to recognise that behind every missing report is a vulnerable young person who needs help. And I am pleased to say that with better understanding the joined up response we see across Wiltshire and Swindon today recognises this, with all agencies involved prioritising those young people most at risk.
With the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), the Opal and Emerald multi agency teams based in Swindon Borough Council and Wiltshire Council tackling CSE and the local authority social care teams we have really improved our approach across the county. Only last week I was able to spend a day in the MASH and witnessed first-hand a how victim focused they are.
In continuing to prioritise children and young people at risk I am pleased to be able to say that Wiltshire Police have introduced two new Missing Persons Operational Support Staff (MPOSS) roles, working with those young people who frequently go missing, offering support and to gain understanding of why they go missing. These roles will enable closer working between police and partners including the MASH team.
Although I see the professional response to missing children across our county has vastly improved the social response and understanding of missing children can sometime seem like its falling behind. It's not difficult to see why when a young person goes missing for a third time in a week the response from the professionals and the community can be one of disappointment and frustration.
Any young person can be at risk of going missing; but if a young person is part of a troubled family or in care, the level of risk increases.
Children are more likely to go missing than adults, and young people within our care system are more likely to go missing than any other children.
We all need to remember that behind every report of a missing child is a vulnerable child, and whether you are a teacher, sports coach or shop worker we all need to recognise that missing is a symptom of a wider problem, not the problem itself.
It is important that we all work together to address the cause of why young people go missing, to help us understand why, and safeguard these young people from further harm.
National charities like Missing People, offer advice and guidance for parents and guardians, professionals and young people, along with free and confidential helpline.
If you know someone who is missing or if you are away from home yourself missing people free and confidential helpline is available 24 hours a day. If you need urgent help or support please call, text or email 116 000 ([email protected]).