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Missing children helplines praised

Kate McCann has hailed the launch of two initiatives to help find missing children.

She was among guests at a Downing Street reception to celebrate the introduction of a new Europe-wide hotline and the relaunch of an official website with information about Britain's missing and abducted children.

Mrs McCann, whose daughter Madeleine disappeared in Portugal in 2007 aged three, said the 116000 missing children phone number was a "lifeline" for families like hers. She said it was a "really positive day" and spoke of a shift in attitudes among politicians towards the problem.

"In the last few years there's been greater awareness and certainly there's been a greater political will," she said. "We just need to keep spreading the message. It is a big problem, and we do need the Government's backing."

The 116000 missing children hotline, which is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, is operated by specialist support groups in 16 European countries, including France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Holland and Poland.

Britain's official website to help find missing and abducted children - www.missingkids.co.uk - has also been redesigned ahead of International Missing Children's Day on Friday.

Home Secretary Theresa May hosted the reception in Number 10 for campaign groups, celebrity supporters and families of missing children.

Also attending was Nicki Durbin, whose 19-year-old son Luke went missing after a night out with friends in Ipswich, Suffolk, in May 2006. She said: "There's been a huge change in the last year, and more people are aware about all of our missing ones."

Two London cabs sporting advertisements for the newly-relaunched website were parked outside the front door of Number 10.

Another 300 black cabs will carry appeals for missing children inside for passengers to read, thanks to an idea by former taxi driver father Colin Outhwaite, father of ex-EastEnders star Tamzin. The heavily pregnant actress said: "It's an amazing idea. I couldn't believe no-one had ever thought of it before."

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