An innovative approach to supporting young people who are at risk of going missing was launched in Northamptonshire on November 1.
Young people who go missing are vulnerable and at risk of criminal or sexual exploitation. The aim of the pilot scheme was to see if by acting quickly and focussing on the young person involved, the factors causing them to run away could be understood and addressed, without support put in place to make it far less likely that they would go missing again.
The scheme builds on a pilot phase that ran for three months earlier this year, when a specialist Youth Worker from the Early Intervention Team that is based in the Office of Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold, visited every young person who had been missing three times or less, soon after their return.
Fifty-two young people in Northamptonshire went missing during the pilot phase, and Youth Workers visited each of them as soon as possible after their return – following up in more detail the statutory visit that all young people who have been missing receive from their local authority.
As a result, not one of the 52 young people involved – all aged around 14 or 15 – has gone missing again. In addition, 75 per cent of the young people has taken up the offer of further support.
Parents told the project team that they felt supported to deal with any issues the young person had revealed and knew how to contact a named worker if they needed further help.
A specialist Youth Worker will now be based in the Force’s Missing Persons Investigation Unit and the approach taken during the pilot scheme will now be standard in every case to prevent a young person from going missing.
Augusta Ryan, Senior Early Intervention Practitioner, said: “We wanted to let young people be heard, and to see if by listening and trying to find out what was wrong – and crucially, to help them solve those problems – we could prevent them going missing again.
“The pilot scheme with 52 young people gave us every indication that this approach really will stop someone going missing repeatedly and we are confident enough to assign a specialist Youth Worker to this team permanently.”
Northamptonshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Stephen Mold said: “When a young person goes missing, they massively increase the risk that they will become a victim of or involved in crime. This project is a splendid example of how we can intervene early to protect young people and I am pleased to see it has already been successful in supporting more than 50 young people.”
“Investing in preventing crime and exploitation has been at the heart of my Police, Fire and Crime Plan for Northamptonshire, and I set up the Early Intervention team to help young people and families in ways that would improve their life chances and make our communities safer.”
Detective Inspector Andy Blaize from Northamptonshire Police Missing Persons Investigation Unit (MPIU) said: “This is a significant development in the support given to children and young people following a missing episode.
“Going missing is often a symptom of something that is happening in a young person’s life so it’s important that this early intervention is available.
“Within the MPIU we were delighted with the outcomes of the pilot scheme and the Early Intervention Worker who joined the team had the exact skills and experience needed to help make the difference.
“We’re also continuing to work very closely with our colleagues at The Young People’s Service who provide excellent support for children and young people following missing episodes.”