SAFEGUARDING protocol rolled out across the region to protect youths is now being recommended across the country.

The Philomena Protocol, named after the patron saint of babies, infants and youths was the first of its kind in the country after being introduced by Durham Police in January.

Building on the success and learning from the Herbert Protocol – an initiative to support adults at risk of going missing – the Philomena Protocol is being used in the 48 children’s homes across County Durham and Darlington.

Working alongside partner agencies, it encourages carers, staff, families and friends to compile useful information which could be used in the event of a young person going missing from care.

The streamlined approach hopes to protect vulnerable young people whilst respecting and understanding their need for independence.

Durham Police Inspector Rachel Stockdale and Detective Sergeant Ian Haddick, developed the idea in 2017 and have since seen a 36 per cent reduction in missing cases.

The protocol has been suggested to other forces by the Parliamentary committee in House of Commons and the National Police Chiefs Council.

DS Haddick, who has linked in with all care homes in the area, said: “What we identified was that we had an increase in missing from home reports from children’s homes across the force and in 2017 we started working closely with these homes to ensure that young people living across the force area in these homes are safeguarded.

“Last year we discussed how we could build on this and identified the Philomena Protocol.

“The protocol is for young people who are at risk of going missing and it’s designed so the carer or whoever has responsibility for that young person has all the key information at their fingertips to not only ascertain that the young person is missing from home but also work with the police to locate that young person successfully.

“It’s about listening to that young person and the voice of the child. Part of the problem solving is involving that young person and as part of the protocol, the carer will ask the young person what can be done to stop them going missing.”

Insp Stockdale added: “Children in care have some real complex issues and are really vulnerable so it’s really important to try to prevent them going missing because every time they do, they could be at risk of harm such as child exploitation, modern day slavery and county lines.

“When people go missing it’s a really stressful time and it used to be that it was a sole issue for the police.

“There was not that responsibility from the care home to be that safeguard or act as that parent or guardian so we looked at it in line with the Herbert Protocol to see what we could learn from that.

“Everybody has a part to play.”

The team are now identifying fostering agencies across the force area and young people in their own homes who might benefit from it.

If you require further information or think you know someone who should be a part of the Philomena Protocol, email police at