1,255 young people reported missing from Edinburgh care homes in last year

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CHILDREN are reported missing from Capital care homes at the rate of more than 100 a month, the Evening News can reveal.

There were 1,255 absconding from young persons centres last year – with nearly 4,000 people reported missing in total.

Police said the number of cases is diminishing but remained high and constituted a “significant demand” on resources.

“We treat every report of missing people with the utmost seriousness and dedicate suitable resources to conduct a thorough investigation and trace that individual,” said Chief Super Kenny MacDonald.

“Factors that impact on our assessment of risk and vulnerability include the age of the individual, their physical and mental health as well as the circumstances in which they have gone missing.

“The time spent on a missing person inquiry differs based on the nature of the investigation but all efforts are taken to ensure anyone reported missing is found as soon as possible and provided with the necessary assistance and support they require.”

Chief Super MacDonald said officers are working with hospitals and care homes in a bid to reduce the number of cases and thanked the public for their help in tracing missing people.

At least two thirds of those reported missing walk out of young persons centres without permission and return of their own accord after three hours.

They are reported missing as part of the units’ duty of care.

Cllr Alison Dickie, Vice Convener for Education, Children and Families, said: “It is encouraging to see a reduction in the number of young people going missing from our residential units.

“Much of this is down to the dedicated work of our 
residential care staff. Senior social work managers also have regular multi-agency meetings about individual young people who have been missing and work very closely with Police Scotland to ensure appropriate actions are in place.”

Of the 3,934 people reported missing last year, 436 were from The Royal Edinburgh Hospital and 180 from the Royal Infirmary.

Most of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital cases are patients who failed to return from an agreed period of leave.

The majority from the Royal Infirmary abscond from the emergency department or the Acute Medical Unit and are understood to be addicts or have mental health issues.

NHS Lothian director of nursing, Prof Alex McMahon said hospitals have “robust guidance” for each case and are working with police and the council to reduce the number of missing people.

“Out of the large numbers of people we treat in our hospitals, occasionally a very small number abscond during their treatment. We’ve a duty of care to involve the police to encourage a safe return. Each instance is logged and followed up as appropriate.”