Preventing people from going missing and limiting the harm associated it can cause are at the heart of a new national strategy.
The National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland, launched at a conference on ‘Returned missing people’, brings together Police Scotland, local authorities and the third sector to deal consistently and appropriately with incidents of people going missing.
It aims to introduce preventative measures to reduce the number of incidents of people going missing; provide the best possible support to missing people and their families and protect vulnerable people to reduce the risk of harm.
Annabelle Ewing, minister for community safety, said: “Every year over 30,000 people are reported missing to Police Scotland and around two thirds of these are children and young people, who are especially vulnerable to harm and exploitation.
“We must be able to understand and deal with the issues that lie behind individual cases and, while Scotland already has the right set of policies in place as well as a wealth of good practice, we need a consistent and coherent, multi-agency response.
“The National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland will ensure such a response is in place and is founded on a close collaboration between the Scottish Government, Police Scotland, local authorities, NHS Scotland and a number of third sector organisations.
“I believe that this is a major step forward in our efforts to protect some of Scotland’s most vulnerable individuals and ensure that the families and loved ones left behind are supported.”
Martin Crewe, Barnardo’s Scotland director, said: “Runaway and missing children and young people put themselves at considerable risk and are a prime target for sexual predators. They are also much more likely to suffer physical abuse, become a victim of crime or get involved with drink or drug abuse. We therefore, very much welcome the introduction of the National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland.”
Police Scotland Assistant Chief Constable Mark Williams said: “Police Scotland deals with over 20,000 missing person investigations every year. Thankfully, over 99 per cent of people are found safely but it highlights the scale of the challenge society faces. That’s why it is so important that we work together to better understand the complex reasons why people go missing in the first place.”
He added: “This new strategy puts working collectively at its very heart to tackle the issue at its root cause whilst also providing an important framework for supporting missing people and their families during times of crisis.”