On International Missing Children’s Day (25 May), the National Working Group for Missing Persons in Scotland highlights concerns for the welfare of young people who are at risk of going missing during lockdown restrictions, and launches a new website for young people needing advice and support.
In April 15% more young Scots contacted Missing People’s Runaway Helpline for confidential support than an average month1, with even higher demand being seen for the charity’s LiveChat service.
Thanks to funding from the Scottish Government and with the support from Barnardo’s Scotland, Missing People is today launching a brand new website full of information and advice for young Scots linked to running away and related issues including information on staying safe during COVID-19.
Susannah Drury, Director of Policy and Development at Missing People stated “Young people across Scotland are struggling to cope with lockdown – they’re experiencing mental health challenges, escalating conflict and abuse at home as well as feelings of isolation. These factors are making young Scots want to run away, but feeling there is nowhere safe to go. The Runaway Helpline team are available 24/7 for confidential support and advice on how to stay safe by phone or text on 116 000 and now online.”
“One young woman contacted us who was thinking of running away – she lives with autism and mental health issues and was finding home a difficult place to be with her parents struggling to understand her emotions and tensions rising. The Runaway Helpline team were able to acknowledge and help her explore her feelings and her options and signpost specialist local charities who could help with the pressures she was under. As a result she decided not to run away, because that felt too risky.”
Community Safety Minister Ash Denham said: “This is a challenging time for everyone and we know that lockdown can put extra mental strain and pressure on the most vulnerable. So I am pleased to see the Runaway Scotland website go live with the support of the Scottish Government. This vital resource will ensure that young people who have been or are thinking about going missing have access to the information and support that is right for them.I am also pleased to announce that the Scottish Government will provide £90,000 funding for year two of the national coordinator project. This will build on recent progress and further enhance multi-agency working to improve outcomes for missing people and their families.”
Chief Inspector Colin Convery, from Police Scotland's National Missing Persons Unit said "Police Scotland is fully committed to investigating all missing person reports as a matter of priority, and to ensuring all of Scotland's citizens are looked after during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. "We take every report of a missing person seriously, and know that people go missing for many different and complex reasons. A significant number of the missing person cases we deal with are about children, and in the vast majority of cases, the child or young person returns or is found quickly. Support to children and young people is vital at this challenging time."
Daljeet Dagon, national programme manager for Barnardo's Scotland “Barnardo’s Scotland is delighted to be a part of this powerful partnership of charities and organisations who have come together to improve support to vulnerable children and young people, particularly through this difficult lockdown period. We know from our experience, that for some, going missing is an intentional act which is a key indication that something isn't right. If the problem is at home, the chances are that this time of containment will result in increased anxiety for young people, the new Runaway Helpline website will hopefully give young people the lifeline they need to help alleviate some of the stress and help them contact local services who can support them.”
Professor Hester Parr, Chair of the National Working Group stated "As chair of the Working Group for Missing People in Scotland, I represent an expert collective of professionals involved with missing issues. I am delighted, on their behalf, to wholeheartedly endorse this new resource for Scotland’s young people who are at risk of going missing. This resource is being released on an internationally significant day but also at a time of national crisis, when we need to provide novel forms of assistance for our young people. The partnership between the Scottish government, Missing People and Barnardo’s Scotland is a beacon of good practice in this regard. The new website and Helpline will directly help to prevent our children from coming to harm."