SCOTLAND’S MISSING KIDS
16 December 2014
More than 2,600 children as young as three have disappeared from Scottish schools for prolonged periods of time and some never found, according to new figures obtained by the BBC.
In some cases, children are marked as missing because they have moved house and failed to tell the school.
Agencies say others disappear for more “sinister” reasons including abuse and forced marriage.
In the past five years, 2,619 children aged three to 16 have gone missing.
The figures, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, include 719 children going missing in the past year.
Children are categorised as “missing in education” if the authorities are unable to track them down from four weeks or more – or two to three days in the case of vulnerable children .
Some 24 children were never traced – in the main because authorities say they moved abroad.
Several of the councils said they do not record those who are “not returned” and do not know about or record cases of forced marriage.
Fife council said that in one case “the family moved to France” but it was “never verified”.
Specialist agencies say in addition to the children recorded as missing from school, there are others who disappear without being monitored because families tell a plausible story to the school before. for example. forcing the child to marry abroad.
One specialist agency worker, who cannot be identified for safety reasons, said:
“Children going missing is significant to begin with and should worry everyone.”
“Children going missing but not being reported missing, now that is a real problem.”
“Now, if the parents are not going to go forward to report a child missing either because they have been taken out of the country, or they have been subjected to all sorts of horrors like female genital mutilation, like forced marriage, they could have been abducted and sold as a bride…that is a real, real worry.”
A system was created to record and report missing children after the murder of five-year-old Danielle Reid in Inverness in 2002. Her body was not found for three months, partly because her mother told the authorities she had moved to a school in Manchester.
Ministers announced the Children Missing in Education system in 2005 with a unique identifying number for each child to track pupils between schools and council areas.
The inquiry following Danielle’s murder stated: “If we do not share in the early detection and support of Scotland’s vulnerable children, then the consequences of their subsequent neglect and abuse will re-visit us for many generations to come.”
The system means most missing children should be recorded but the figures also show that some children have not been traced for 10 months and others have never been located.
Earlier this year, the Jay report inquiry in Rotherham revealed “shocking levels” of abuse and highlighted links between children who go missing and sexual exploitation.
Children that have been recorded as “missing in education” in the past five years
1,385 in Glasgow
267 in Fife
164 in North Lanarkshire
4 in South Lanarkshire
22 in Edinburgh.
A Scottish government spokesman said: “These are concerning figures and we are currently looking at how we can tackle the issue of children missing from education.
“The Scottish government is committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Scotland’s children and young people, and education and school staff play a crucial role in the support and protection of children.
“The national Children Missing from Education Guidance emphasises that where there is any concern that a child may be at risk, child protection procedures should be followed.
“We support local partners on the ground to continually improve child protection measures, including protecting children from risk of harm and neglect. This ensures children get the help they need when they need it.”
The spokesman added: “Forced marriage and child sexual exploitation are abhorrent crimes. We continue to work with local authorities, law enforcement agencies, children’s charities and other third sector organisations, as well as Parliament, to tackle child sexual exploitation and we legislated in 2011 to protect those in or at risk of being forced into a marriage.
“From 30 September 2014, the Scottish government created an additional layer of protection by making it a criminal offence to force someone into marriage.”
A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council’s Learning and Leisure Services, said: “We have robust procedures in place and, when a child or young person is registered as being missing, a thorough investigation is immediately carried out.
“The reasons for a child or young person being classified as missing include returning to their original country, moving to another school in the UK or being home educated.
“We work closely with The Children Missing from Education (Scotland) (CMES) Service to ensure all cases are investigated thoroughly.”
A City of Edinburgh Council spokesman said: “We have very strict protocols in place for identifying children who may be, for whatever reason, not receiving an education.
“These include checks by their schools, the involvement of education welfare officers and other local authorities, right through to the Scottish government and Interpol.
“Although there are often quite straightforward reasons why children may not be at school, it’s important we carry out all the checks we can to ensure their welfare.”
A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “Glasgow has a very transient population with approximately a class of 25 in and out of the city each week.
ScotGovt PDF CHILDREN MISSING IN EDUCATION
Missing from care in Scotland
Courier country children in council care went missing at a rate of more than one a week last year.
Sixty young people cared for in facilities run by local authorities were reported as having gone missing in Falkirk, Stirling, Dundee and Fife during the 2012/13 financial year.
The figures were obtained under freedom of information legislation but the total could actually be higher as Angus Council returned figures for the calendar year, with six children reported as missing in 2013.
Clackmannanshire Council and Perth and Kinross Council reported no missing children last year.
The children reported missing from homes or facilities run by Fife Council jumped from three in 2011/12 to 33 in 2012/13.
However, the council stressed the process of recording was changed in 2012, hence the increase in figures which in turn has affected the overall total throughout Courier Country.
Matt Forde, national head of services for NSPCC Scotland, said it was vital to establish why children run away.
“The reasons that children go missing from care are many and varied, making it all the more important we take the time to listen and help them work through their particular issues,” he said.
“It could be that they miss their friends and family, are being bullied, or simply haven’t settled in their placement.
“Equally, we have to be vigilant to the potential for abuse. Going missing is a real red flag in terms of the risk of sexual exploitation.
“This in itself is a particularly difficult issue because children often don’t see themselves as being exploited, not to mention unhelpful myths that get in the way of professionals and adults tackling the problem, such as the view that these are ‘lifestyle choices.’”
All the councils follow clear procedures when a child goes missing.
In Dundee the number of missing children fell from 16 in 2011/12 to 12 in 2012/13.
A council spokeswoman said: “If a child has placed themselves at risk we will always act.”
The number who failed to return in Stirling fell from seven in 2011/12 to five in 2012/13.
Val de Souza, head of social services and chief social work officer, said: “Whilst the number of young people absconding or being reported missing has fallen in recent years, we remain vigilant and we work closely with Police Scotland to ensure their safe return.
“We then seek to work with the young person to understand their motivation and to help prevent any recurrence.”
In Angus the figure dropped from seven in 2012 to six last year.
A council spokeswoman said: “When a child goes missing from our care we report this to the police.”
And a Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman said: “Should a child or young person go missing, we have procedures in place where carer/parents/guardians, the police and other relevant public agencies would be contacted.”
And in Falkirk the number of children who failed to return also fell from 13 to 10 in the last two financial years.
A council spokeswoman said: “There is a clear and well-followed procedure in place for dealing with children reported as missing from any council facility.
“Any child who persistently goes missing can also be referred to Police Scotland’s Youth Runaways Project.”
Children and Young People Missing From Local Authority Care – Joint Protocol
Child Protection Committees are required to ensure there are multi-agency policies, procedures and systems in place for the identifying, referring and responding to situations where young people place themselves at risk through their own behaviour.
Research has shown that around 9000 young people in Scotland run away from home each year, 1 in 6 children have reported being physically or sexually assaulted whilst missing. In Fife, during 2009-2010, 972 young people were reported missing from residential care establishments.
Every year 9,000 children go missing in Scotland.
For the UK as a whole, over 77,000 children go missing every year.
Speed is critical in locating missing and abducted children. Modern technology offers a unique way in which the public, Police, NGOs and the private sector can work together better to protect our children.
On 4 June, 2004, the Scottish Police will celebrate the official launch of their accession to the UK Missing Kids Website, at 11.00 am, Scottish Criminal Record Office, Glasgow, Scotland