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Child exploitation

Catch22 releases Missing and Emotional Wellbeing report

A young person sits alone on a wall outside, listening to music on their headphones.

Catch22 has today released its Missing and Emotional Wellbeing Report, reflecting on findings from its services and the growing impact young people’s mental health has on safeguarding and their wellbeing. Catch22 runs Child Exploitation and Missing services across England. Using the organisation’s Risk and Resilience model, the services work one-to-one with at-risk children and young people and provide training and intervention advice to professionals, parents and carers.

As part of its services, Catch22 conducts Return Home Interviews  – where a staff member from an independent youth services organisation, such as Catch22, checks the child is OK and gathers information that could prevent a repeat missing incident. These interviews are a statutory requirement and the insight from these forms today’s report.

The report includes case studies from services and finds that mental health was a factor in at least a third of all children’s missing incidents reported between April 2020 and April 2021.

Summary of recommendations

  • There must be timely access to mental health support when children disclose poor mental health during a return home interview (RHI).
  • Children or young people having been reported missing or at risk of exploitation should be supported by a fast-track referral into Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
  • During a missing report to Police, call-handlers should ask explicitly about the child’s state of mind at the time of going missing, to support accurate risk assessment and appropriate response and investigation.
  • Follow-up contact by the person who conducted the RHI should take place within one week where poor mental health has been disclosed, in line with research that suggests the risk of repeat missing episodes is especially high in the first couple of weeks. Commissioners should consider this as part of Missing Services.
  • Information-sharing protocols should be put in place whereby schools and colleges can be alerted that a child has had a missing episode (subject to consent to share), to ensure school staff are aware that the child may need additional support at this time.

Missing from home incidents, child sexual and criminal exploitation, and County Lines are too often seen as separate – when in fact they are closely linked. Catch22 is calling for a National Child Exploitation Strategy that would bring together the different forms of exploitation, specifically addressing child criminal exploitation and County Lines, and including Missing.

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