Care bosses are claiming success in tackling the number of missing children in Doncaster thanks to a new approach.
The number of children in care who go missing in Doncaster – and costs associated with the issue – has plummeted, thanks to a new approach and a devoted specialist worker.
Since March last year, Rachel Ely-Hiscock, children in care liaison officer, has built rapport, trust and relationships with about 25 to 30 children who are currently in care, to work out better ways to help them stay safe.
And figures show she is having success after the number of children going missing in the area fell by nearly three-quarters – from 46 a year ago, to just 12 in January 2015.
Rachel said: “All parents know the challenges of keeping children and young people safe, but children in care are particularly vulnerable.
“By building a good rapport, I can help spot any signs of risk, advise them about staying safe and explain why we need a sensible plan for them coming home when they say they will.
“As we have all seen, child sexual exploitation is a particular risk, so this is something I can help them to avoid.”
The role is a partnership approciate between South Yorkshire Police and Doncaster Children’s Services Trust, a new and independent organisation set up to deliver social care and support services to children, young people and families in Doncaster.
Rachel works in plain clothes, which helps break down any barriers young people may perceive, and she visits them to provide support, advice and work out agreed times and arrangements for them to be safely home at night.
She said: “Working in this new way is also helping the force save thousands of pounds a week in having to find and return any missing children.”
The trust, the first of its kind in the country, has been set up to discover innovative ways of working, such as Rachel’s role.
Ian Walker, the trust’s head of children in care, said: “It’s natural for young people to want some independence and enjoy going out in the evening but, as with any parental role, we need to know they are safe and well.
“When a young person in our care goes missing it’s always a cause for serious concern.
“We monitor this very closely and take immediate action if that happens.”
“Doncaster has never really had a significant issue with the number of children in care going missing – but one is too many.
“We’re delighted with how this new liaison officer role is working and our young people have said they are too.”