A COUNCIL has been urged to incentivise parents to report missing children after being told it had made little progress “for quite some time” in working with parents who avoid contact with social services.

Darlington Borough Council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee was told working with parents was key to addressing the causes of children going missing, and Missing from Home interviews were offered in all cases, with the children engaging in 74 per cent of the cases.

When the young person refuses to engage with the interview, the issues are explored with parents, carers, teachers or social workers.

The meeting heard there had been a slight decrease in the interviews taking place in 72 hours, due to the council not receiving the reports from the police in a timely manner or the children and their parents avoiding any contact with the Missing from Home worker.

Officers were asked if action had been undertaken to improve the council’s partnership with the police.

Members were told the council was trying to arrange for police officers to sit in the children’s access point, that the authority was awaiting technology to ensure all referrals were sent through to social services and that social workers were visiting the police station every day to try and improve the communications.

Councillor Cyndi Hughes, the council’s former children and young people’s portfolio holder, asked what the council was doing to get parents to become involved without facing accusations.

Officers said a working group of police, public health and children’s social care was working to ensure that the missing team, who are Barnardo’s staff, informed them rapidly quickly so police and the social workers can attend the child’s house as well.

Cllr Hughes said: “How far have we got with that, because I have heard that for quite some time. How far have we got with the incentivising of parents to engage?”

An officer replied: “We have had two meetings with police, but we haven’t had any implementation with parents as yet.”