New missing people database planned to prevent repeat of Rotherham abuse scandal

Rotherham was at the centre of a child sexual exploitation scandal
Rotherham was at the centre of a child sexual exploitation scandal
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A new national database of missing people is to be rolled out as part of a drive to tackle child sexual exploitation in the hope of avoiding a repeat of the Rotherham scandal.

The facility will allow police officers to access a central database containing information on missing adults and children.

Plans were revealed as ministers announced new steps aiming to bolster efforts to prevent a repeat of abuse scandals such as those seen in Rotherham, where 1,400 children were abused between 1997 and 2013 while authorities failed to act.

A Government report published yesterday said: "We know missing children are particularly at risk of sexual exploitation.

"Working with the National Police Chiefs Council we will develop a National Missing Persons Register that will allow the police to access data about missing people, including children, across force boundaries."

Last year a parliamentary inquiry warned that thousands of children could be at 'terrible risk' because they are effectively off the police radar when they disappear.

Under police guidance, when forces receive a report that a child is missing they can class them as either 'missing' or 'absent'. A categorisation of absent denotes that the child is considered to be at 'no apparent risk'.

A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults said its inquiry heard cases of children classed as absent who had been groomed for sexual exploitation or criminal activity such as drug-running.

Concerns about the response to missing children have also been raised by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary.

In 2015-16, police forces in England, Scotland and Wales received 382,855 calls reporting people missing. Children and young people accounted for over half of missing incidents, with 94 per cent aged between 12-17.

Plans for the new database emerged as Home Secretary Amber Rudd launched a £40 million package of measures to tackle child sexual exploitation.

The cash injection will see the National Crime Agency receive an extra £20 million, a new Centre of Expertise will be launched and £2.2 million will be handed to charities working to protect children at risk of trafficking.

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion said the £40 million funding package was 'fabulous news' but more could be done.

She added: "Whilst the police, social services and CPS have come a long way, and we are seeing more prosecutions as a result, we have still been falling short on providing appropriate care to the victims and survivors. Sadly, the Government’s announcement does not go far enough to address this.

“It concerns me that as a country we are still not recognising the scale of child abuse in the UK, so this funding commitment demonstrates real progress, but should only be seen as a first step.

“Going forwards, we must do more to prevent child sexual exploitation and other forms of child abuse. The only real way to achieve this is for all children to have good quality relationship education. This would teach children to respect themselves and others, understand the difference between a healthy or abusive relationship and know how to report concerns. Alongside this there needs to be a national awareness campaign so we can all play our part in preventing this vile crime.”

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