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Herts police, schools and charity join forces to support missing children

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A "landmark" police system to provide co-ordinated help and support for children reported missing in Hertfordshire was launched on Monday (April 26).

Hertfordshire Constabulary's scheme, the first in the country, is being piloted in partnership with the county council's children's services department, schools and a charity called Operation Encompass.

From now on, if a child or young person in Hertfordshire is reported missing to police, their school or college will receive prompt notification and relevant safeguarding information via the force's recording system.

Herts police (46559729)
Herts police (46559729)

Detective Chief Inspector Andrea Dalton, who leads Herts Constabulary'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's 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.

Stock image. (46559252)
Stock image. (46559252)

"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."

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

Introduction of this scheme follows a similar project for children experiencing domestic abuse, which was launched in December 2019. It has enabled hundreds of children to be given extra support by schools.

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.

Stock image (46559267)
Stock image (46559267)

"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, a police officer and school headteacher 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."

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