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Police chief wants children's care homes to take their parental responsibility 'appropriately'

By Scott Maclennan

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The Highlands' highest ranking police officer explains how the other agencies could help shoulder some of the burden by making more sensible choices

Ch Supt Rob Shepherd.
Ch Supt Rob Shepherd.

One area where local police are pushing for change is around reports of missing people. Ch Supt Shepherd said that was particularly around children being reported missing from care placements.

“There are a number of care homes in the area with a lot of young people in them having had difficult lives – they have seen things most of us haven’t and wouldn’t want to and, not surprisingly, like any young people, want to have their freedom and we often see them going ‘missing’ at the weekend.

“Because of their age and vulnerability we of course take that seriously, but on the other had, working with those care homes, we have to ask are they fulfilling their parental responsibility appropriately by immediately calling the police as soon as a young person isn’t home by their curfew?

“If your child was told to be home by 10pm would you be calling the police at 10.05pm if they weren’t back by then or would you be calling friends, maybe hospitals? Most of us I think would probably do a lot of other things before contacting the police.

“As I say, if a vulnerable young person is reported missing we swing into action on that, but it is not our role to be de facto parents.”

He is now leading conversations with care homes, he says, to help make sure they are undertaking basic checks first, before making it a police matter, adding that it was also about speaking with young people themselves to make sure they understand the impact of not being home by agreed times.

On that impact he shared an experience from his previous policing career down south. “I remember we had a kid in Croydon who was reported ‘missing’ 300 times in one year,” he said.

“Investing time in a conversation with the care home there saved tens of hours of officer time. It also meant less chance of us missing the ‘genuinely’ missing young person among that.”

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