Authorities in Bucks have improved the way they help vulnerable children who repeatedly go missing from care after one teenager disappeared more than 60 times in three months.
During a meeting of Bucks County Council’s (BCC) children’s select committee this week, members of the Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children Board were quizzed on plans to reduce the number of children who regularly go missing from care.
A range of partners including BCC and police are now working together to investigate the issue on a daily basis and establish why some young people are running away.
More “bespoke” arrangements are being made with individual young people to encourage them to meet their curfew, while still giving them the freedom to go out and see their friends.
Superintendent commander at Wycombe LPA, Kevin Brown, said one teenage girl went missing 64 times in three months, however she has only gone missing twice since the new approach has been enforced.
Supt Brown said: “It is really encouraging to see particularly where I work at Wycombe, a lot of multi-agency activity around the bespoke issues of each child, but also the working of each care home.
“Because, as an example, we have got a 17-year-old looked after child, or somebody in a care home, they go out four times a week after 10.30pm and four days a week they get reported missing.
“As part of some multi-agency working they come to a contract with the child, they say ‘we have got these rules, we need to abide by them for your safety but we appreciate you are an adult.’”
Figures reported in 2018 showed the number of children going missing from care in Bucks rapidly increase over the last five years – after 66 disappeared in 2017/18.
Councillor for Aylesbury West, Steven Lambert, recognised children who are as little as half an hour late meeting their curfew can be reported as missing to the authorities.
However, service director for children’s social care at BCC, Richard Nash, warned it can still be “extremely serious” if a children is missing for half an hour, so a “risk-based approach” is taken with each individual child based on their circumstances.
The Buckinghamshire Safeguarding Children’s Board – a multi-agency partnership tasked with promoting the welfare of young people – is currently undergoing a series of changes.
The board will be replaced with a new safeguarding team, led by the council, police and clinical commissioning groups.