“Remember, Remember, the Fifth of November – Gunpowder, Treason – and Plot!”
November the 5th is almost upon us and like many organizations Nipperbout will be running Lost Child Points at public firework events. If you’re going to one, have a great time, but remember the safety of everyone in your group.
If you’re running an event yourself, remember my Top Tip:
When crowds are on the move, children are easily displaced and separated from adults. The maximum risk comes as soon as the event is over and people start to leave.
If you’re an organiser of a public event, do you have a Lost Child procedure? Is it robust? And do those following it know what they are doing?
After 25 years of running Lost Child Points at national events, my experience is that the answer is quite likely to be “No”. This is a real concern because with the correct procedures in place, festivals and shopping centres in particular are key places where missing children could actually be properly identified and safely reunited with frantic families.
In the 12 months between 2014 & 2015 (the most recent figures available), 210,632 missing persons incidents were created by police in England and Wales. Of that number, 60% were children. Put bluntly – here in the UK a child is reported missing every three minutes.
15-17 year olds account for 59% of all missing persons incidents for children - making them statistically the most vulnerable group. And yet one of the many misconceptions that organisations in charge of Lost Child Points have, is that children over the age of 14 are able to take care of themselves!!
This summer alone, Nipperbout reunited over 200 lost children. Our unique CPD-accredited Lost Child training course incorporates procedures developed from real life situations. This helps participants to come up with the best plan of action for those tricky situations that sometimes happen when dealing with lost child points at events, shopping centres, museums and amusement parks.
Our staff have had several interesting situations to handle recently:
· Convincing a security guard that we did indeed have the legal right to withhold a child from its parents, because the child was under the age of six and both parents were clearly intoxicated.
· Preventing an organiser from returning a ten year-old to a ‘parent’ without first checking that the individual concerned had proper legal parental responsibility. At the time he defended his actions by saying "…if a child is calling an adult ‘Mum or Dad’ and is happy to go with them, what's the problem?"
· Reporting two safeguarding issues (one involving a trafficked child) to the social services.
· Contacting schools to ensure information we were concerned about was correct and shared with the school's Designated Safeguarding Lead.
Personally, I’m still recovering from a trip to a well known public attraction. There, I watched in horror as a security guard smiled, gave a thumbs up sign and gently pushed a four year-old in his charge towards a group of adults who had waved and called out that the child belonged to them.
The law states that:
“It is your duty to ensure that your functions and services are carried out having a regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/31/section/11)
ALL organisations which provide services to the public need to abide by this. Event organisers need to be aware that if there is a serious case review about a child, the social services and police can go back over three months and question anyone who has cared for that child during that period. So what grounds might give rise to a serious case review? The following are all potential examples:
• the child who turns up regularly at the shopping centre lost child point.
• the child who tells you that that their parent is “in the pub”,
• the child who lives with ‘Aunty’ but ‘Aunty’ isn’t actually a relation,
• the child who would rather stay with you than go home at all.
Your team needs to be able to recognise these kinds of situations – which DO happen - and take appropriate action to protect the child, themselves and your organisation. If they can't and don't, then you could be held accountable. If staff don’t know what their duty of care is, or follow incorrect procedures for reuniting children, then the organisations they represent are breaking the law and insurers (if there’s even a policy in place) could refuse to pay up in the event of a claim. Insurance is an item that is - in my experience - rarely thought about. Event organisers must check that whoever is running the Lost Child Point has the correct insurance in place - www.mortonmichel.com has a new and specific policy which is ideal.
The opening line to this month’s blog is from a poem referencing the Gunpowder Plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605 – perhaps for the organisers of firework events this weekend (and many more public events besides!) it could read: