Missing from care, are we doing enough?
The word safeguarding, it’s used so often yet do we even know what it means?
Surely in order to safeguard someone we must take preventative measures.
Let’s look at a scenario and for the purposes of this article define it as purely fictional, made up to give us some insight into what really goes on when a young person goes missing.
A young 16 year old female named Lucy. She lives within a supported housing project run by a local charity. Lucy has a history of absconding and is generally deemed to be at a low risk of sexual exploitation. Lucy informs her key worker that she will be staying the night at Gary’s house and that she met him at the bus stop a few days ago. Gary is 39 years of age and is self employed. Lucy is reminded that she must return to the home prior to her curfew time of 11:00 pm.
Lucy has stayed in contact whilst she has been away and has given you an address, however it is now 11:00 pm.
You decide to contact the police who initially state that Lucy is at Low Risk because she is in regular contact and an address is known and therefore will be categorised as absent, this is in line with ACPO Interim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons 2013.
You are still not happy that Lucy is completely safe. You speak to your manager and ask whether it would be possible for you to visit the address Lucy is staying at. Your manager informs you that you are not allowed to make such a journey alone and even in pairs may be quite risky. She recommends you contact the local authority’s out of hours team and also contact the police again.
You make your phone calls and after pleading with the police, on this occasion promise to dispatch an officer to check on Lucy.
Lucy is found by the police at the address provided, however the police have no power to remove Lucy from this address, they inform you that in order to intervene they will need a court order.
Lucy stays the night with Gary and fails to return in the morning.
You contact Lucy’s social worker who agrees that they will need to obtain a court order (recovery order) to safeguard Lucy and ensure her return. You both contact Lucy and try to convince her to return home however Lucy says she is happy with Gary and does not see why she needs to return.
The following day Lucy turns up at the Children’s home, she looks dishevelled, emotional and generally poorly.
You make Lucy a warm drink, it’s apparent that she wants to talk so you give her the time to do so. Sadly Lucy informs you that she had an arguement with Gary, shortly afterwards Gary became physical and went on to sexually assault Lucy.
You wonder what you could have done to safeguard this young person… What preventative measures did or could you have taken? Could the police have done more? What about social services? Could it just be a life lesson Lucy needed to learn from?
Either way and unfortunately for Lucy any help came far too late.
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Article by Anonymous.