Belfast Telegraph

New hotline for missing children

Runaway teenagers and those thinking of fleeing home will be giving emotional support on a new hotline for missing children.

The parents, siblings or carers of missing children can also get advice and guidance on the 116000 number, which will be run by the ISPCC.

Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the service will provide an important support for children missing from home and for their families.

"We must acknowledge that for those children who are missing and even for those who may be considered missing only for one day, there is a family member or significant other who is worried, frightened and distressed and that there is a child out there feeling scared and alone because they are either in danger or have left their home," she said.

"The 116000 hotline is now available as an extra resource to these families and children. It will help provide the emotional support and information needed during such a difficult time."

Cases can include a child running away, parental abduction, criminal abduction, asylum children vanishing, or even a child getting lost.

Under EU telecoms rules, the 116000 number is reserved in all EU member states for a missing children hotline.

The Irish number, which has been operating on a pilot basis since December, will be financially supported by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the EU. But parents are warned that initial calls should still be made directly to gardai who, in emergency cases, can trigger its Child Rescue Ireland (CRI) Alert if they believe a child has been abducted and that there is an immediate and serious risk to his or her health or welfare.

ISPCC chief executive Ashley Balbirnie said a child going missing is a parent's worst nightmare.

"The ISPCC is delighted that after several years of advocating for this vital service, we are finally able to provide support to children and families on a 24 hour basis," he added.

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