Report of the Strategic Director Care, Wellbeing and Learning
The Committee received the report providing an updated summary of missing from care episodes from December 2017 to November 2018 and an update regarding protection and monitoring of child sexual exploitation.
It was noted from the report that Gateshead Council has clear procedures regarding missing children and young people which incorporate a joint protocol between Northumbria Police and Children’s Social Care. The procedures and data systems form part of the Local Safeguarding Children’s oversight of arrangements. It was also highlighted that a designated officer is a legal requirement for each Local Authority and that this remit is delegated to the Service Manager for Looked After Children.
From the report the Committee were advised that an Initial THRIVE Assessment is carried out upon receipt of an incoming missing report. The Committee were also advised of the differences between a child classified as ‘missing’ or ‘absent’.
It was highlighted from the report the different categories of risk that will apply to a missing case from high risk to low risk. It was also noted that there were 948 missing episodes in total between December 2017 and November 2018 of which 65% were looked after children.
Within the report the Committee were provided with a summary of data to illustrate the number and frequency of missing and absent instances. The data provided also demonstrated that from May 2018 to October 2018 there was a significant amount of missing episodes from in house residential provision.
The Committee were advised that when a child is reported missing from home or care for the second or subsequent time in a six-month period or for a single episode lasting longer than 24 hours they are offered an Independent Return Interview. Within the report a breakdown of reasons a child has chosen to be absent or go missing was provided, reasons ranged from domestic violence to bullying.
It was asked what ‘THRIVE’ stood for in terms of the initial assessments that are carried out. It was advised that THRIVE stood for Threat, Harm, Risk, Investigation, Vulnerability and Evidence.
A question was asked as to whether foster carers receive any support when a child in their care who has gone missing. It was noted that foster cares do receive emotional support as it is required in addition to the ongoing support they will receive from their social worker. It was further noted that foster carers are involved with the child’s plan and will attend TAF meetings.
It was suggested that children could be tracked via GPS devices to ensure that they were safe. It was noted that this would not be possible as it is seen as a deprivation of liberty. It was further noted that children need to be encouraged to be responsible for their own safety and that trust with carers needed to be maintained to develop this; officers commented that GPS tracking may hinder that trusting relationship.
(i) The Committee accepted the report and agreed to receive a further annual report in the next municipal year.