The Panel received a report and presentation from Lisa Wood, Strategic Manager, First Contact and Countywide Specialist Servicesoutlining the recent activity and development of the ERASE Team since the service was reviewed in 2019 (for copy see file of minutes).
The Strategic Manager highlighted service improvements which had taken place including working with police colleagues to ensure the recording criteria for reporting children missing is aligned with the police definition. In addition, a data analyst had been seconded from Durham Constabulary to obtain a clear picture of the position to ensure an appropriate response is provided.
The Strategic Manager explained that, on recognising that a number of professionals were undertaking return to home interviews, a dedicated Missing Coordinator was appointed in April 2020, to provide independent return to home interviews for all children going missing from care. Close work is undertaken with the police co-ordinators which enables the sharing of intelligence and promotes a better understanding of any emerging trends.
The Panel noted that the Strategic Child Exploitation Group had increased its membership to include the voluntary sector and representatives of the LGBTQ community and young people with offending behaviour.
In terms of performance, the Panel noted that the number of young people missing from home and care had increased during the year, however, members were asked to bear in mind the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic and the new definition developed in line with police colleagues which may account for the increase in the number of reported incidents. Nationally there had been an increase in the reporting of children going missing as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Strategic Manager highlighted the improved performance with regard to the number of return to home interviews completed as a result of the dedicated officer in post and that the service had created COVID-safe ways of working to ensure the service continued throughout the pandemic, including ‘talk and walk’ sessions.
Learning from audits and inspections had led to improvements such as the development of a language document which had been designed in conjunction with young people, which aims to promote consistent use of language when describing children and young people missing from home or care and those vulnerable to exploitation.
That the report be noted.