UK agency axed which helps find missing people

The families of missing people are devastated to learn that the National Policing Improvement Agency which helps find missing people in the UK is to be axed to save government funding. The NPIA maintains a database of 44,000 people listed on its Missing Persons’ Bureau, and it also has a database of unidentified bodies. It provides funding and operational support for police to conduct cold case reviews to identify these missing people.

Chief Constable Peter Neyroud, the NPIA’s chief executive, explains how vital their work is: “The NPIA is the centre of expertise for the police service in cases of missing people. There are around 1,000 cases of unidentified bodies across the country, dating back more than 50 years. We are trying to create stories with endings for families who may still be grieving. It is extraordinary how many people know someone who has gone missing. Most of them return but many do not and these stories have no endings.”

Who is going to provide an ending to these tragic stories if the NPIA is axed? The vital work this agency does has a considerable impact on the lives of those who are desperately searching for a missing person, like Valerie Nettles, whose son Damien went missing 14 years ago, and says: “That leaves families like mine back in limbo again, without focus, support, direction, hope. There is more hope for a lost puppy with the support of the RSPA than there is for my lost boy and others like him?”

A Facebook campaign has been launched to save the agency, and supporters are asked to write to their MPs objecting to the cutbacks. This is a letter they are urging people to copy and forward to their MPs:

The NPIA Missing Persons Bureau is the national and international point of contact in the UK for all missing and unidentified cases and is the entre for information exchange, knowledge and expertise on the missing.  It provides an integrated service for missing adults and children. People who go missing can travel extensively, crossing borders on a regional, national and international level.  There is a real need for a national operational unit to manage both missing children and adults.

Currently, outside of the smaller NGOs, there is no support for parents of children abducted into the UK and little available to parents of children missing abroad, having the NPIA Missing Person’s Bureau has enabled smaller NGOs to get additional governmental department services so rightly deserved in these cases.

The Bureau also has strong productive links with related groups and charities, including Forever Searching.  It has provided a platform to bring these smaller NGOs together to share and exchange information and advice, and more importantly to give the families and friends of missing loved ones a voice through these organisations.

Let us highlight for you the risk and the impact that closing of the NPIA Bureau would have on the issue of missing people.

  • patterns of missing indicating crime and harm going unnoticed
  • long term unresolved cases
  • unresolved suspicious and murder cases
  • duplication of effort trying to resolve these cases and safeguard individuals
  • inconsistent and impeded response to cross-border cases
  • inability to improve and disseminate good practice
  • failure to resolve cases using other national services such as the national Missing Persons DNA Database, Missing Persons Dental Records file and the National Fingerprint Database
  • lack of oversight of joined up multi-agency services

Again, let us highlight for you the risks of splitting the services offered by NPIA into other agencies:

There will be confusion around responsibilities in various cases involving adults and children who go missing together and children who turn 18 whilst missing. There will be significant difficulties regarding those aged 16-25 years.  This age group is vulnerable as they are in a transition period between childhood and adulthood, i.e. information and advice drop in service Check-Point provide services for young people up to the age of 22.  Young people who are cared for in the care system are eligible for support until they are 25.

Separating missing children and adult police co-ordination will have a negative impact on the police response.  We believe that the Missing Persons Bureau is essential to link missing persons cases and link victims of murder who have been reported missing.

Missing people are known to travel large distances; this is especially true in cases of parental abduction.  Our charity has much experience in this area from its support to families and friends.  A national service like the NPIA is needed to resolve these cases.

Without a national Bureau working to resolve both missing adult and child cases we have great concerns that the impetus of the recent Taskforce may be lost. Some of the issues identified by the Missing Persons Taskforce include:

  • Lack of public understanding on the issue of missing people.
  • Data collection is poor.
  • Responses from multi-agencies are not co-ordinated.
  • Roles and responsibilities of all agencies are not clear
  • Levels of support to families of the missing is not sufficient

Further details on these recommendations to improve the multi-agency response to missing incidents are set out in The Missing Persons Taskforce report.

Supported by smaller NGO’s such as ourselves and Missing Abroad, the group Family and Friends of the Missing have been calling for additional support to people caught up in this nightmare situation.  This resulted in EDM1119 which subsequently came to nothing.  We urge you to continue the work of the NPIA Missing Person’s Bureau within the new National Crime Agency.  Strong links to the charitable sector are also needed to provide the necessary support and comfort to the families left behind.

The most important issue for families and friends is to have a unified, structured and supportive Governmental body working to in this field to help find those who are missing.

We would respectfully request that the services provided for missing people are not compromised by the re-structure of police services and the phasing out of the NPIA.

You can find your MP here, please write him the above letter. I shall.

Please read here the 14-year agonising search by Val Nettles for her missing son Damien.

In memory of those who are still missing.

1 Comment

  1. There are some useless government agencies, but this was an important one.

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