Posted: Tue 29th Sep 2020

North Wales police and crime chair – councils should be “named and shamed” if they refuse to agree to a child protection procedure

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Sep 29th, 2020


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A police and crime panel chair says councils should be “named and shamed” if they refuse to agree to a child protection procedure.

Pat Astbury, who chaired the virtual police and crime panel meeting on Monday, said the issue of return to home interviews for runaway children was “not a single organisation’s problem” and called for “action” from local authorities.

The interviews are recommended by the Children’s Society and can give organisations vital information, not only about why a child has absconded, but of any wider scale child exploitation issues in the area.

The society’s guidance recommends the interviews are conducted by a person the child can form a bond of trust with.

Councils have a statutory duty to conduct such interviews with runaways, but the Children’s Society believes they should be independent, something North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones agrees with. He said a lack of independent return to home interviews for runaway children in North Wales, especially from care, had been a “concern” for him since he took up office.

He warned members the response from local authorities was “mixed” and, if something wasn’t set up soon, they could face a “serious incident” that they may be forced to explain at a “public inquiry”.

Ms Astury told the board, made up of local authority representatives, staff of the PCC’s office and independent members: “Like modern slavery, it’s not a single organisation’s problem is it?
“If we want to see success stories that’s what we have to do (conduct independent interviews).

“Let’s see some action from local authorities and those that don’t (agree) maybe we should name and shame.”

Mr Jones said he was willing to pay for return to home interviews from his office’s budget after Welsh Government withdrew funding – but he claimed not all councils were on board.

He added: “We really need to take this issue seriously before a serious incident happens and we have to explain ourselves to a public inquiry.

“We have had engagement once from local authority chief executives, then we have had directors of social services saying ‘no’.

“The picture across North Wales is very, very mixed with some local authorities doing return to home interviews and others not.

“It’s a massive risk area and I would ask elected members from the various authorities to take this back to their safeguarding and well-being departments and see if we can work together.

“I am quite happy to do my share, and more. These children, children in care in particular who run away from home, are at risk of exploitation.”

Safeguarding Wales says there is “a statutory Duty to Report Children at Risk on relevant partners under Section 130 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014”.

In England guidance says children “must be offered an independent return interview”.

Safeguarding Wales says a “child or young person may be offered a return home interview and follow on support by a missing children advocate or worker working with the police”.

Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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