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BASW: Stable, specialised and skilled workforce needed to prevent children going missing from care

As the Chief Inspector of Ofsted publishes a new report that highlights the lack of reliable data on the number of children who go missing from care and the need for urgent action to establish a single register to track them, BASW endorses the report and calls for the creation of a stable, specialised and skilled workforce to support children in care.

Commenting on the publication of Missing Children, BASW professional officer Sue Kent said: “We know that many of the children who go missing from care are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, and this must be a central issue in any new guidance on multi-agency working. Protecting these children must be high on everyone’s agenda. 
“Recent attention on investigations and convictions of men who have sexually exploited young people has highlighted that some of these children were being looked after by the state, and had been missing from home on a number of occasions. 
“This has led, quite rightly, to a review of children missing from care and the recognition that there is little consistent data available which illustrates the extent of this problem. It is good to see that Ofsted is asking for a single and effective method of recording this data which will no doubt illustrate the enormity of this problem.
“There is clear statutory guidance on what should be done in an attempt to safeguard children who may ‘go missing’ and it is evident from the small sample that Ofsted used for their report that this is not being implemented. 
“This isn’t just about the numbers but as Ofsted point out in their report, the reasons why children go missing. These elements of safeguarding such as risk assessments on children, return home interviews, multi-agency work, design and implementation of protocols with local police are not consistent. 
“As we would ask why children go missing, we also have to ask why this is the case in some children’s homes. Is it lack of training, lack of support, lack of good management or lack of qualified staff? In many residential units there is likely only to be the manager who is a qualified social worker and the responsibility to ensure all the staff in a home reach the standard necessary to keep children safe falls on their shoulders.
“It is interesting to read that the common features where the frequency of missing incidents had reduced, listed in the Ofsted report, were all related to resources and leadership and these two factors have to be a high priority for all providers of children’s residential care.
“We endorse the report’s findings that identify the key factors to success, namely timely and persistent family support, continuity of workers and listening to and taking account of the views of children.  
“By prioritising the creation of a stable, specialised and skilled workforce, we can do more to protect young people and prevent them from running away in the first place. 
“We hope that the Ofsted report will reinforce the point that children in residential care need support and resources to ensure positive outcomes in just the same way as children who are awaiting adoption.”