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Concern About Number Of 'Missing From Care Episodes'

Concerns have been raised about the plans in place to safeguard children who go missing from Jersey care homes.

The Jersey Care Commission says it was told about children as young as 12 going missing overnight, with little information about the plans in place to address it.

One young person was reported missing on 47 separate occasions and one care home reported 143 incidents to the Commission in 2020, with most of them relating to young people going missing from care at night.

The Commission says the number of times this happened could suggest that the measures in place to engage young people with their care plan are not effective.

The regulator also reveals some instances where it wasn't clear what plans were in place to get the young person back quickly and safely - which has been called particularly concerning when there are risks with child sexual exploitation.

"The ability of staff to respond to these episodes (which occur mainly at night) has been impacted by the staffing arrangements and the availability of staff to follow or collect young people. It was noted in many of the notification forms that care staff had alerted the police of the child or young person’s missing episode and awaited their return. The absence of further information about any other intervention in these situations would suggest that this is the extent of the measures in place to maximise the safety of a child or young person in care. This is concerning and doesn’t provide evidence of compliance with the Standards that relate to supporting children and young people to feel safe.

"In other instances, the Commission has received detailed accounts of staff searching the area, locating the young person and supporting them to return to the home. This is good practice and is consistent with what any parent might consider appropriate in these circumstances.

"Where there have been frequent and predictable missing from care episodes, Commission staff have encouraged registered managers to initiate a multi-agency review. It’s not clear what the outcomes of these reviews have been as some children and young people have long-established patterns of going missing from care."

In its 2020 findings report, The Commission also highlighted that two children's care homes didn't have dedicated staff sleepover rooms when they are fully occupied.

That meant staff would sleep in one of the home's communal areas instead.

"It is the Commission’s view that these arrangements are not suitable and that overnight staffing arrangements should not impact on the availability of communal areas, or on the privacy of staff. Staff who are on ‘sleep over’ generally continue their shift into the following day. It is important for staff to be provided with suitable facilities to enable them to avail of their rest period. The Commission has been advised that these arrangements are under review and that the maximum number of children and young people in both homes will reduce in order to create capacity for a dedicated staff sleep-over room."

The Commission says it has been assured that all staff now have an updated enhanced DBS check in place, following concerns about that in recent years.

Further inspections will take place in 2021.

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