MPs have again called on the government to urgently introduce new powers that would mean families of missing people could protect their missing loved one’s finances and property.
An event in parliament yesterday hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, highlighted the plight of families with a missing loved one.
Despite former Justice Minister Lord Faulks QC’s announcement in March 2015 that the government were committed to introducing the necessary legislation, no further progress has been made.
At present, when someone goes missing, their family has no right to step in and manage their loved one's affairs in their absence. As a result, the missing person’s finances can quickly fall into disarray, and in the worst cases, homes can be repossessed. The family are forced to stand by and watch while the life they hope their missing loved one will return to falls apart.
Recent figures from the National Crime Agency highlight that there were over 210,600 reports of a missing person in 2014/15. Missing People is the only charity in the UK that searches for and supports missing people and their families. The charity’s records suggest that guardianship powers could benefit 2,500 families who have been missing a loved one for more than three months.
The campaign for guardianship has been led by Missing People and several families dealing with the emotional, legal and financial strain of having a missing loved one. Those include Peter Lawrence, father of York chef Claudia, who has been missing since 2009, and Rachel Edwards, sister of missing Richard Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers. Financial and legal organisations also support the introduction of guardianship law as it would provide them with a clear legal mandate for dealing with families in this situation
Ann Coffey MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults said “Throughout our campaign for guardianship we have been grateful to have support from many MPs in making the case to government. Like me, they have been motivated by the stories of families who have had to look on helplessly as the life they hope to see their missing loved one return to disintegrates.
“Although they are simply trying to safeguard their loved one’s possessions and affairs they face barriers at every turn, all at a time when they are going through the most heartbreaking uncertainty about what has happened to their family member. The government must urgently commit to introducing these new powers.”
Susannah Drury, Director of Policy at Missing People said “Despite strong cross-party support for introducing guardianship powers, no timetable for the necessary legislation has been published. We urge the government to make this a priority in order to prevent families with a missing loved one suffering further and more families being affected.
For every week that passes before this legislation is brought into law, more families are put in the situation when they have to watch their loved ones’ financial and legal affairs break down, whilst also dealing with the emotional impact of their disappearance.”