This report provides an update on missing children and return home interviews.
The Interim Director of Early Help and Children’s Social Care was in attendance for this item accompanied by the Information and Intelligence officer and the Service Leader.
The Sub-Committee was provided with the Key Performance Indicator (KPI) data for December 2017 and January 2018 but stressed that the data was provisional and still to be verified.
The Service Manager provided Members with details of the composition of team and the process of conducting Return Home Interviews (RHI).
The Sub-Committee learned that there were 3 members of staff that conducted RHI’s, 1 RHI co-ordinator, 3 members of staff that managed child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases and 1 service manager to oversee activities and intelligence analysis.
The Sub-Committee learned that once a missing child had been located, the interviewer made an appointment and aimed to complete the interview within 72 hours. The interview took place in a comfortable space away from the home of the young persons, usually at the school during break so as not to disrupt lesson time and a teaching assistance sat in the meeting. The aim of the interview was to ascertain where the young person had been, identify concerns of risks and harm and further services of support that may be required. The team used the information gathered to identify commonalities and themes of where young people had been going when missing, what they had done and with whom. As a result, a high risk panel that meet weekly had been developed to track high risk missing children. This panel membership consisted of professionals in the education sector as well as the police and data analysis team.
Members questioned whether young people were asked where they felt comfortable for the interviews to take place and what feedback had been received as to how the system could be improved. Officers responded that in determining where and when the interviews took place, the young person would be consulted. The interviews took place during break time in order to maintain discretion. The feedback received from young people is that they welcomed the interview being conducted by someone that is independent of the social work system.
Members questioned the number of asylum seeking children that had frequently featured on the missing data and commented that the placement of those children away from their families and community may be a factor in recurrent missing episodes.
Officers acknowledged that asylum seeking children had featured frequently on the missing list. One of the issues identified was the distance of placements and, where a young person was placed outside of their community, the council would seek to ensure that RHI is part of future commissioned services in such cases. They would also seek to regularise existing commitments.
In response to a Member query on the data for RHI for unaccompanied minors, Officers stated that the most recent figure was 55% offered and accepted. This was an improvement on the April 2017 figure of 15% accepted rates.
In response to a Member question as to how often the interviewers received supervision, officers responded that supervision was conducted on a 4 weekly basis by the co-ordinator. The co-ordinator was also supervised and all information was documented. The quality of supervision was also reviewed on a regular basis.
Members questioned the effectiveness of RHI and what improvements could be made. Officers responded that this was a new service that had been operational for 8 weeks. The team was consistently conducting analysis of data gathered and was working closely with the police on criminality patterns and risk factors such as CSE. The team was currently in a learning period of mapping out patterns associated with missing young peoples and information sharing with multi-disciplinary teams around the child.
The case load of the 3 interviewers and the data presented had shown that there had been 203 found episodes in January 2018 (data yet to be verified). Officers stated that that the NSPCC also conducted interviews as needed. Each interview lasted approximately 1-1.5 hours.
Members commented that language and understanding of culture was important in formulating and also informs action plans. It was queried as to what steps were taken to safeguard young people within their own community when information was shared or disclosed to the authorities. Officers stated that risks and safeguarding was managed on a case by case basis with measures of safeguarding factored into the individual’s care plan and reviewed on an ongoing basis.
Members questioned the data for young people that had gone missing more than once and sought clarification of the criteria of ‘missing’. Officers responded that 63% of young people has been recurrent missing persons, some had been missing for short periods where they had missed curfew by a few hours. The team was still working on the classification and definition of unauthorised absences as under the current procedure children missing for only short periods had to be reported as missing and impacted the data collected.
Members asked what action had been taken regarding the 45% of young people who had refused the RHI, Officers stated that persistence is maintained in offering RHI’s and working with those young people to gain their trust. Members commented that 3rd sector groups could be utilised in building trust. Officers stated that the team was aware of the importance of community groups and the need to rebuild relationships in order to utilise their expertise to realise the aims of the service.
In response to a Member query as to whether the service would look to external providers or organisations to conduct RHIs. Officers stated that the option of a fully commissioned service was considered, but due to the urgency of the Ofsted recommendations, it was decided to continue with the in-house service in the first instance. The advantage of the in-house service was the fixed stream of reporting and information which allowed for intelligence to be collated at a faster pace. Longer term options would be considered as the service evolved.
Members question the effectiveness of the IT services systems in capturing, recording, extracting and analysing data and the views of frontline users on the functionality of the systems. Officers responded that frontline staff had stated that the system is fit for purpose. The CRS teams was always working to identify improvements. Dataset and reporting functions were consistently developed in order to maintain quality assurance of extracted figures. The team also had access to the GIS mapping system which was being developed to map out geographical patterns.
The Officers were thanked for answering questions, their commitment and the improving level of service that was provided.
1. That the update report be noted.
2. That an update on outcomes following RHI interviews be provided to the future meetings of the Sub- Committee.