A COUNTY Durham scheme which has resulted in the number of reports of children going missing from homes by more than a third has been praised in a report looking at the best police schemes nationally.

Durham Police won praise for its work to reduce the number of youngsters going missing from children's homes.

It introduced the Philomena protocol, which is a template form for parents and carers to list potential contacts and possible places the child could go if they go missing, in January and has since seen a 36 per cent reduction in the number of youngsters going missing.

The scheme is named after Philomena, the patron saint of babies, infants and children and has been suggested to other police forces across the country.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) highlighted the initiative in its report Learning the Lessons, which includes some of the best schemes aimed at dealing with missing people.

Lauren Collins, from the IOPC's missing people operational practitioner group, said: “IOPC investigations into missing people are particularly difficult and bring home the impact on people.

"At the start of police contact there is a family member or friend with hope that the police will find their loved one safe and well. However, because of the nature of the investigations the IOPC is involved in – death or serious injury following police contact – this is often sadly not the case.

“Publications like Learning the Lessons helps all stakeholders involved in missing people investigations share learning and good practice.”

Josie Allan, policy and campaigns manager for Missing People, said: “Missing People provides support for the families waiting for news, those who are missing, and anyone thinking of going missing. We work closely with police forces across the country to support their work when someone is reported missing.

“The police and call-takers are the front-line response for missing people and their vital work ensures that most are found quickly, safe and well. However, this is not always the case, and this edition of Learning the Lessons shows the significant implications if a missing report is not adequately responded to.

“These cases show that while lots of good work is being done, more always needs to be done to keep all missing people safe: going missing is often a warning sign that something is seriously wrong in someone’s life, and professionals should prioritise the search for people while they are away and the support they need when they return.