Publication - Independent report

Working Group for Missing People in Scotland: Report on the implementation of the National Framework for Missing Persons in Scotland, September 2020

The working group for missing people were asked by the Minister of Community Safety to support and assess the implementation of the National Framework for Missing People aims and recommendations. This report sets out the groups findings from their implementation review.

23 page PDF

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23 page PDF

306.0 kB

Contents
Working Group for Missing People in Scotland: Report on the implementation of the National Framework for Missing Persons in Scotland, September 2020
National Missing Persons Framework For Scotland: Update 2020

23 page PDF

306.0 kB

National Missing Persons Framework For Scotland: Update 2020

Action

1.1: Develop or strengthen local multi-agency partnerships working in all 32 local authority areas.

Lead area

All agencies working with missing persons including: Local Authorities, Police Scotland, Education Services, NHS Scotland, Third Sector

Progress to May 2018

We have completed an initial mapping survey across local authorities. It confirmed that 85% of respondents were part of a multi-agency partnership. There was variation across the partnerships, but 48% reported that partnership working had been improved following use of the Framework. These are very positive and promising outcomes given the short time that the Framework has been in place. It is crucial to ensure that different agencies are working collaboratively to deliver positive outcomes for missing people and their families.

Progress to August 2020

Multi-agency partnerships remain critical to preventing and locating missing people.  Following a survey in 2018 we circulated a follow up in local authority areas in 2020 that showed 58% of respondents are part (or their organisation) of a multi-agency partnership in their area[2]. National Implementation Project commenced in 2019 with a National Coordinator appointed. The National Coordinator has worked with partners in three local authority areas, Dundee, Fife and Edinburgh to help develop and strengthen the partnerships in those areas.  The work has helped to increase understanding of good and innovative practice, identify with partners where good practice can be further developed and provided an opportunity for professionals in each area to discuss the benefits and challenges of their multi-agency responses to missing people and their families. The Scottish Government have extended the National Implementation Project into year 2 and the National Coordinator will work with missing partners in North Lanarkshire, Moray and Renfrewshire. The Working Group for Missing People has aligned to the work of the National Coordinator to assess the implementation of the Framework and build understanding of how best multi-agency partnerships can be used.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • All local authorities to consider missing in an appropriate local multi-agency group as a core response to the National Missing Persons Framework.
  • Oversight of the Framework delivery should continue through the Working Group for Missing People.
  • Multi-agency best practice identified through the National Framework Implementation Project should be showcased in 2020-21 and used to develop good practice toolkit.
  • Police Scotland to continue reporting on trends to allow for local and national planning.
  • The Working Group for Missing People will: 
    • continue to engage with the Minister for Community Safety to identify good practice around prevention, protection and support and work with the Parliamentary Cross- Party group when established.
    • engage with Police Scotland and National Coordinator to identify and address barriers to multi-agency partnerships for missing.
    • disseminate learning and good practice through child and adult protection committees across Scotland.
    • showcase practice within Scotland at International Missing Persons conference.
    • consider best practice being developed nationally and internationally.

Action

1.2: All agencies adopt the national definition of missing persons and incorporate this into their work.

Lead area

As in 1.1 plus Care Inspectorate

Progress to May 2018

The survey has demonstrated that 82% of respondents were very familiar, quite familiar or familiar with the definition. A common understanding of the language used in relation to missing people is essential to increase the standardisation of approaches and ensure appropriate responses when a person goes missing ensuring that different agencies do not end up talking at cross-purposes. Awareness of the definition is high and we will build on this.

Progress to August 2020

Responses received from our survey in 2020 show that 95% of respondents have adopted and are using the national definition of a missing person[3].  We believe the work of Police Scotland in local areas, when investigating missing people, has been crucial to this increase of awareness and use of the definition.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • The Working Group for Missing People, Scottish Government, National Coordinator and Police Scotland will continue to promote the use of national definition of missing persons.
  • The Working Group for Missing People recommend all training continues to include and promote the use of the national definition of missing persons.

Action

2.2: Development of our understanding of local issues and circumstances which may impact on people going missing through a multi-agency partnership approach to this issue.

Lead area

Local organisations including: Police Scotland, Local authorities, Third Sector organisations

Progress to May 2018

Police Scotland has been looking to better understand how local circumstances impact on patterns of people going missing and what we can learn from this. This information is shared with relevant partners in specific locations across Scotland to highlight issues or concerns in local areas where there may be a need to tailor interventions in light of those circumstances to prevent individuals from going missing again.

Progress to August 2020

Police Scotland missing persons operational coordinators collate and monitor information from missing persons investigations in their area to better understand local issues, patterns and concerns.   Where appropriate, information is shared with relevant partners to ensure missing people are located and agencies are aware of potential risk to establish safeguarding measures. The National Coordinator through the Framework Implementation Project has been working with multi-agency partnerships, to identify good practice and understand local issues and challenges of multi-agency responses to missing people and their families.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • National Framework Implementation Project to expand work in year 2 into North Lanarkshire, Moray and Renfrewshire using good practice multi-agency working to develop understanding of how targeted action can impact local issues.
  • Police Scotland operational coordinators to share relevant information of local issues, patterns and approaches with partners in multi-agency groups and engage new partners who may not be engaged.
  • Local partner organisations, such as Barnardo's Scotland, should share their experiences of multi-agency partnerships as currently involved.
  • The Working Group for Missing People will promote information sharing between local partners.

Action

3.1: All agencies develop and incorporate a standardised approach to risk assessment.

Lead area

All agencies as described in 1.1 and 1.2

Progress to May 2018

The survey showed that 50% of respondents are using risk assessment within the Framework for adults and 42% are using the Framework to evaluate issues surrounding missing people. This data is extremely important in identifying who is most at risk of going missing so that interventions can be made to prevent further potential missing incidents.

Progress to August 2020

The survey of local authority areas showed 95% of responding organisations have adopted and are using the national definition of a missing person[4]. 93% of respondents are aware of the low/medium/high risk assessment, of which nearly all (95%) use it[5].  It is important to note that the responses made only represent organisations in the respondents local authority area but the indication is positive that the definition is being recognised alongside risk assessment which will help to standardise the collective approach to missing people. 

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • Scottish Government analysis should identify what agencies are not adopting the risk assessment and remove barriers to use and ensure standardised approach across Scotland.
  • Police Scotland give consideration to engaging textsafe as part of every missing persons inquiry.
  • National Framework Implementation Project will continue to promote  guidance on risk assessments with local areas in 2020-21.

Action

3.2: Support the delivery of a multi-agency partnership approach through the development of an appropriate data sharing protocol or strengthen existing data sharing protocol.

Lead area

All agencies as described in 1.1 and 1.2

Progress to May 2018

We are pleased to confirm that data is being shared between statutory bodies when appropriate, and that this is particularly strong where multi-agency or partnership agreements are in place such as Adult and Child Protection Committees.

Progress to August 2020

It remains important that relevant data is shared between agencies to safeguard and/or raise concern about an individual if and when they go missing. 66% of those who responded to the survey confirmed that an information sharing protocol was in place in their area but the organisations involved will vary from area to area[6].  The responses indicated that in some local authority areas there are no reported information sharing protocol and in local authorities where there are, organisations involved differ and include some or all of: Police Scotland; local authority, NHS, social work, educational services, care or residential homes and voluntary sector. This information has been backed by the National Coordinator who has identified information sharing protocols in Dundee, Fife and Edinburgh but how information is shared and who is part of the agreement is slightly different in each area. 

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • Operational working groups or multi-agency partnerships at a local level should develop appropriate information sharing between partners.
  • The Working Group for Missing People will communicate and highlight good practice identified through the Framework Implementation Project at national conferences.

Action

3.3: A review of outcomes of the three pilot projects run by Police Scotland needs to be undertaken and recommendations made on learning before national or local roll out.

Lead area

Police Scotland, Local Authorities, Care Inspectorate, NHS Scotland

Progress to May 2018

There are two evaluations of pilot projects currently underway. These are in relation to adults who go missing from care settings and Looked After children who go missing from care. Once completed the evaluations will inform next steps and future roll out of protocols. 

Progress to August 2020

Two of the three pilot protocols have been completed. CELCIS evaluated and published their findings for the Looked After and Accommodated Children who go missing. These findings have been used by Police Scotland to update the protocol. Adults who go missing from Care Settings evaluation is being completed by University of Abertay.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • The Working Group for Missing People will work with Police Scotland as they finalise the looked after children and adults who go missing from care protocols and move to engage local authorities.
  • Police Scotland engage local authorities through national leadership group SOLACE.

Action

4.1: Ensure that return discussion are available for everyone who has been missing and returned and that these are tailored to the individual and used to help prevent repeat missing episodes.

Lead area

All agencies as described in 1.1 and 1.2

Progress to May 2018

Return discussions continue to be carried out by Police Scotland in the main, with 91% of return discussions conducted in 2017-18 following investigation and a person returning from being missing. Return Discussion training has been developed to increase and standardise approach to the discussions and illustrate the benefit of more organisations being involved in facilitating the discussions. Delivering better quality return discussions will help to reduce the number of people who go missing on a regular basis.

Progress to August 2020

12% of 2020 survey respondents reported  that return discussions are not offered to everyone who has been missing in their local authority areas[7]. It remains very important that return discussions are used to help and support the individual who has been missing. Training was developed for this purpose but it needs to be targeted and reach those who can take the discussions forward or those who can train frontline staff.  The return discussion process is a focus of the Framework Implementation Project. The National Coordinator has been working with frontline professionals in Dundee, Fife and Edinburgh and will continue this work if required in North Lanarkshire, Moray and Renfrewshire during year 2.  Police Scotland remain responsible for return discussions, alongside and combined with safe and well checks in Scotland but where third sector partners are used, such as Barnardo's Scotland in Renfrewshire, Glasgow and Edinburgh or social work services in Fife, wider benefits can be seen.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • Scottish Government and local authorities ensure there is a long-term commitment to fund, deliver and engage with e-learning and face-to-face training across multi-professional groups for return discussions.
  • The Framework Implementation Project should continue to target return discussion training in local areas.
  • Training should include the importance of robust follow-up from professional services undertaking return discussions to ensure necessary support is being provided.
  • Development of statutory guidance outlining role of local authorities to work with partners including Police Scotland to offer return discussions when people come back from being missing.

Action

4.2: Local missing persons multi-agency partnerships agree a protocol for delivering return discussions.

Lead area

All agencies as described in 1.1 and 1.2

Progress to May 2018

Progress made in 4.1 shows that more can be done on this commitment, with Police Scotland continuing to conduct the majority of return discussions across the country. Better understanding of who is best to conduct return discussions is needed to ensure the best outcomes possible for missing people. 

Progress to August 2020

Local protocols for return discussions do exist in local authority areas such as Fife, Renfrewshire and Glasgow and this is seeing more partners involved in the return discussions beyond Police Scotland to include NHS, education and social work staff. Where there is no agreed protocol in place detailing responsibility to deliver return discussions the responsibility continues to fall to Police Scotland. The 2020 survey shows that only 38% of respondents indicated that a multi-agency approach to return discussions had been agreed in their area[8]. It is important that more is done to agree protocol across organisations to establish who is responsible for conducting return discussions.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • Framework Implementation Project through the National Coordinator should identify good practice return discussions including protocols in local areas to promote and expand work that is currently established.
  • Local authorities should ensure relevant employees engage with return discussion training.
  • Police Scotland must continue with safe and well check but return discussion should be conducted by appropriate person, where possible, who is known to and trusted by the individual.

Action

4.3: Support is made available to families of missing people.

Lead area

All agencies as described in 1.1 and 1.2 and including all partners in multi-agency group.

Progress to May 2018

Referring families to support services is crucial both during and after a missing person investigation and is incorporated into the training that is being taken forward. We are pleased that the Missing People charity offers support for the families of people who may, are or have been missing, while organisations such as Samaritans and Childline offer wider support for a range of issues.

Progress to August 2020

More than three quarters of people missing, return or are found within 24 hours and 90% within two days in Scotland.  It continues to remain important and necessary for support to be available for families of missing people, particularly when a person has been missing long term. Missing People continue to offer support for families along with other organisation such as Samaritans and Childline. Our 2020 survey revealed that only 50% of respondents were aware of support being offered to  families of missing people in their area[9].

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • The Working Group for Missing People recommend new measures to ensure practitioners are aware of their responsibilities to signpost families of missing people to appropriate support services. This includes:
  • The development of a Police Scotland communication plan for frontline responders to promote the use of additional support services.
  • The Scottish Government establish a national campaign to promote services available to support missing people and their families.

Action

5.1: Raise awareness of the risks of going missing.

Lead area

Scottish Government

Progress to May 2018

Understanding the risks of going missing is essential in our drive to prevent people from taking such a step. Risks of going missing on a regular basis are raised with those who attend return discussion training. Awareness of risks is being increased through information available via the Missing People website and Runaway helpline along with daily interaction particularly between young people and Barnardo's Scotland, Shelter Scotland and other third sector organisations. 

Progress to August 2020

The Scottish Government  funded Barnardo's Scotland and Missing People to develop an education resource that raises awareness of the risks of going missing for children and young people both in school and the community. The resource, has been developed with input from young people who have been missing and with Education Scotland to ensure compatibility with the curriculum for excellence, it includes resources for practitioners and an online website to allow young people to access information when convenient for them.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • A new strategy to educate and raise awareness of support available for missing people is developed.
  • Awareness raising of the risk of going missing should be included in all relevant training, online resources and information sharing events promoting good practice.
  • Promote the principals of Corporate Parenting across all agencies to maximise the benefit to care experienced young people by raising awareness of the risk of going missing.

Action

6.1: Develop training for those who will be delivering return discussions.

Lead area

Scottish Government

Progress to May 2018

The Scottish Government has funded the development and delivery of training through partnership between Barnardo's Scotland, Shelter Scotland, University of Glasgow and led by Missing People charity.  This is a very significant step forward as it both recognises the central role that return discussions play in ensuring individuals do not fall into patterns of going missing, and acknowledges that there is a best practice level to which all those working with missing people can aspire. In the longer term we would anticipate that this will have a positive impact on reducing the numbers of individuals who go missing on a regular basis. 

Progress to August 2020

Return discussion training was developed by Barnardo's Scotland, Shelter Scotland, University of Glasgow and Missing People. The training sessions were run by Missing People and Barnardo's Scotland in 2018 and offered the opportunity for practitioners and professionals who work with people who go missing to increase their understanding and confidence in conducting return discussions. It is important that training is targeted and reaches those who can take the discussions forward. The Framework Implementation Project has taken forward further return discussion training in 2020 targeted at those working with people who have been or may go missing in Fife, Dundee and Edinburgh and will continue to do so to April 2021.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • Framework Implementation Project should provide training where required in year 2 for North Lanarkshire, Moray and Renfrewshire and follow up training held in Dundee, Fife and Edinburgh.
  • The Working Group for Missing People recommends e-Learning training is developed to access more practitioners working with missing people across Scotland.
  • All training should highlight the difference between a Safe and Well check and a return discussion.

Action

6.2: Map multi-agency working across 32 local authorities and monitor the implementation of the National Framework.

Lead area

Scottish Government

Progress to May 2018

A initial mapping survey has been conducted to determine use, understanding and awareness of the Framework across Scotland, this has given information on the current multi-agency working on 'missing people' with 85% of respondents indicating that they or their organisation are part of a multi-agency partnership.  This is the first time that this data has been collected centrally, and this information is vital to inform how we develop this agenda in the longer term. Multi-agency working is the key to delivering better outcomes for both missing people themselves and their families, and recognising where these are working well is an essential part of identifying best practice so that this can be replicated across Scotland for the benefit of all.

Progress to August 2020

Following the update report of 2018 the Working Group for Missing People have conducted a survey across all 32 local authorities to build greater understating of National Frameworks implementation. The 2020 survey shows that 58% of respondents are part of a multi-agency partnership in their local authority area[10] but just over half 55% believe their approach to missing has not changed since the Frameworks introduction[11]. We believe the Framework Implementation Project through direct work with partners is helping to implement the actions and aims of the Framework.  This work has shown  implementation and positive alignment with the framework but there are areas that need wider engagement that include return discussions and information sharing.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • The Working Group for Missing People recommend that Scottish Government should commit multi-year funding for an external agency to establish a national team to guide and engage with local authorities and partners to promote best practice around prevent, respond, support and protect.
  • Scottish Government to consider analysis of current provision of multi-agency working in 32 local authorities.
  • Scottish Government to support an analytic assessment of average costs relating to risk levels of missing person cases in or with a local area.

Action

6.3: Educate children and young people about the risks of going missing.

Lead area

Scottish Government

Progress to May 2018

Main focuses of the health and wellbeing area of the curriculum is on mental, emotional, social and physical wellbeing and these are essential for successful learning. There is currently no direct information around the risks of going missing or what signs may be to identify the risks. This recommendation has been designed with prevention in mind. Ultimately our goal here is to prevent people from going missing in the first place so that they are not exposed to risk, abuse and harm. However, where this is not possible, we seek to reduce the number of times an individual goes missing so that the underlying issue which lead to a missing incident can be addressed at as early a stage as possible.   Early intervention in schools and youth work settings is certainly one way to help prevent incidents of individuals going missing. Ensuring that young people understand the risks and know that there are support services that they can access if they are in crisis will help to reduce the number of missing incidents.  

Progress to August 2020

As stated in 5.1 the Scottish Government funded Barnardo's Scotland and Missing People to develop a missing education resource for children and young people. Both organisations have been working with Education Scotland alongside children and young people to develop a professional resource that can be used in an education setting or community environment and online information that meets the needs and can be accessed by children and young people independently and privately for help and guidance.

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • Scottish Government should work with Education Scotland to disseminate the education resource in classrooms.
  • The Working Group for Missing People and Scottish Government to promote online resource for young people to access information and support and raise awareness of risks of going missing.
  • Missing People should evaluate the online and practitioner resource.
  • The Working Group for Missing People will consider development of further education material for other vulnerable groups.
  • The Working Group for Missing People will target messaging around risk and the awareness of risk of going missing through good practice conferences.

Action

6.4: Reviewing the administrative options for handling missing persons estates.

Lead area

Scottish Government

Progress to May 2018

Ensuring that the estates of missing people can run while they are missing is central to allowing them to return to their previous lives, if they wish to do so, without suffering the loss of their assets.  The administrative options for missing persons estates is being considered as part of the Judicial Factors (Scotland) Bill to consider the process for managing an estate in difficult circumstances.

Progress to August 2020

The Scottish Government launched a consultation seeking views on the Scottish Law Commission's recommendations and draft bill to modernise judicial factors on the 28 August 2019. The consultation included Missing Persons estates and sought views on the process and administration options of a person's estate when they go missing. The responses have been analysed and will assist on the approach to be taken on the estates of missing people as well as the other areas covered. 

Recommendations/Next Steps

  • Following the analysis of the Judicial Factors consultation the Scottish Government should take forward work to implement the proposals of the Scottish Law Commission recommendations.

Contact

Email: David.Ross@gov.scot