Police and education providers join forces to safeguard missing children in Hertfordshire

The scheme is being piloted in Hertfordshire

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 11:20 am
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 11:22 am

An innovative notification system aiming to provide more joined-up help and support to children reported missing in Hertfordshire is launching on Monday, April 26.

The scheme is being piloted in Hertfordshire in partnership with the county’s Children’s Services, education providers and Operation Encompass - a charitable organisation first set up in 2010 to help schools safeguard children who experience domestic abuse.

The work has involved the building of a brand-new notification capability into Compact, the existing system used by a number of police services to record missing person cases.

Police

The new notification element of the Operation Encompass process is the first of its kind in the country.

Hertfordshire police officers and staff will collect the referral data for review purposes as it is hoped the system could be rolled out to other forces in the future.

From Monday, if a child or young person is reported missing to the police, their school or college will receive a timely notification and relevant safeguarding information via the Compact system.

This process will allow teachers and support staff to provide tailored support to that child or young person.

Schools will not be involved in the evidence-gathering process for any subsequent police investigation, as their role is purely about safeguarding the child or young person.

The introduction of this scheme follows a similar one in relation to children experiencing domestic abuse at home, which was launched in December 2019.

It has enabled hundreds of children to be given extra support by their education provider when they are experiencing difficulties in their home environment.

Detective Chief Inspector Andrea Dalton, who leads the force’s child safeguarding teams, said: “This is a landmark moment for the constabulary, and the county as a whole, as this is the first scheme of its type to be launched.

"The new notification system will enable us to inform all education providers across Hertfordshire about any children and young people aged 17 and under who have been reported missing to us.

“In Hertfordshire, the highest number of missing reports we receive are for children aged between 15 and 17.

"For us, it is really important to ensure there is early intervention with every case, and wrap-around care in the early stages, so we can prevent repeated missing episodes, as well as situations where young people become vulnerable to exploitation.

“There are often many reasons why a child goes missing, and it’s our job to get to the root cause, so we can help them address those issues and safeguard them from crime.

"The new system will enable us to complete the information-sharing circle and help even more children who are at risk of harm and exploitation when they go missing.

“Partnership working forms the cornerstone of what we do, so we are hugely appreciative of Hertfordshire Children’s Services, schools and colleges for taking this on board, and to Operation Encompass for their guidance.”

Jenny Coles, Director of Children’s Services at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “We have a strong and effective safeguarding partnership in Hertfordshire that brings together all the organisations with a role to play in protecting young people.

"This new initiative will help us share information more quickly, and therefore allow us to act more quickly and effectively when a child is reported missing.

“We can work with each other, and with the young person and their family, to understand why they went missing and what care and support we need to put in place to protect them from harm and exploitation, and to help prevent them going missing again.”

Operation Encompass is a charitable organisation set up in 2011 by David and Elisabeth Carney-Haworth OBE – a police officer and school head teacher respectively.

They said: “Children go missing from home for a reason. It is imperative that the child’s school is made aware that this has happened so that the child can receive appropriate care, nurture and support from their teachers.

“This work builds upon the incredibly successful reporting to schools about children experiencing domestic abuse incidents that is at the heart of Operation Encompass.

“Vulnerable children deserve all the support and nurture that we can give them and it is our duty to provide this support. We commend Hertfordshire Police in their efforts to support vulnerable children.”