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Introduce return home interviews for adults who go missing

It is a statutory requirement for Return Home Interviews (RHI) to take place with children and young people who go missing in order to try and understand the context and reasons behind the event and also help identify and reduce vulnerability, to try and prevent a reoccurrence.

The Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) is keen to replicate this for adults who go missing, linking in with wider mental health and suicide prevention work locally. This initiative links both with other commitments around County Lines and establishing a multi-agency vulnerability directorate.

Currently Dorset Police receive approximately 200 reports a month of missing adults.

Dorset Police report that in the year from 1 February 2017 to 31 January 2018 there were 1509 adults who went missing, of these 224 were repeat missing adults ranging from two incidents to 13 incidents. In comparison in Dorset from 1 February 2017 to 31 January 2018 there were 1,006 children who went missing, of these 321 were repeat missing children ranging from two incidents to 105 incidents.

In September 2019 Dorset Police reviewed records of suicides to establish how many had previously been reported missing, it was highlighted that 21 of 86 had a history of going missing, of these:

•           Twelve people had one reported  episode of missing prior to their suicide - however two of these had occurrred 10 years previously.

•           Three people had two reported episodes of missing prior to their suicide

•           Six people had three or more reported episodes of missing prior to their suicide.

The OPCC has liaised extensively with Dorset Police and other partners to establish the most appropriate way to pilot a scheme for adults. Given the levels of demand placed upon the Force by responding to Missing Persons cases, and the persistence of the Commissioner in arguing the case for an enhanced response to people who go missing, Dorset Police have made a successful case to the Innovation Fund for the creation of a Missing Persons Co-ordinator post.

Part of this role involves the oversight and development of a return home interview initiative although it is recognised that the Co-ordinator will not have the capacity to conduct the interviews themselves. As a result, the Commissioner has agreed funding for one year to support the recruitment of two Return Home Interview Caseworkers and associated administrative support to help establish this much needed service.

The Adult Return Home Interview Service (RHIS) will contact adults who have who have been located or have returned having been reported as missing, to arrange and conduct an in-depth interview – providing they have been identified as appropriate following the triage/risk assessment process – to:

  • Identify and report harm they have experienced that may not have been disclosed as part of the police ‘prevention interview’ (safe and well check)
  • Gather information to help with an understanding of the reason why the individual went missing.
  • Advise and refer to help the person address the issues that triggered the missing episode to try to reduce the potential for future harm including by reducing the likelihood of them going missing again in the future

It is anticipated that the service will launch in early 2020.

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