Monday, November 08, 2010

Missing Persons: One Cut Too Many

Yesterday's Independent on Sunday carried a story by Brian Brady which alleged that the government plans to cut a £500,000 annual grant to the charity Missing People, which tries to find missing persons and reunite them with their families.

We all understand the need to find savings, but in my view this is a cut too far. More than 275,000 people go missing in Britain each year. Shocked? You should be. Now imagine how many people this affects and you get to more than a million. Each of these people has their own unique story and reasons for disappearing - and of course some are "disappeared".



MPs have warned that efforts to find the 275,000 Britons who disappear every year will be further hindered by a threat to the sole state body focused exclusively on locating missing people. The UK Missing Persons Bureau is part of the National Police Improvement Agency (NPIA), one of the organisations earmarked for closure amid the cull of quangos last month. Ministers admit they have not decided where – or whether – the bureau's work will be continued...

"Withdrawing funding from the only 24-hour missing persons charity without saying how they are going to invest in the future has made a precarious situation one that threatens to be catastrophic," said Martin Houghton-Brown, Missing People's chief executive.

The charity, whose website carries thousands of photographs and case details, claims that it "directly reconnected" 450 UK families with a missing relative last year, while "countless more" were indirectly helped.

An Independent on Sunday investigation last year found the charity's volunteers and staff were struggling to cope. It was demanding that a government department take responsibility for the issue, more co-operation between statutory agencies and, crucially, more resources. But it is now set to lose a £350,000 annual grant from the Home Office and £150,000 from the Department for Education, which helps to maintain a runaways helpline.

Missing People's staff have attempted to play down the damage presented by the cuts, partly due to fears that it could undermine the confidence of the charity's private backers.

I think the whole area of 'missing persons' is one of those subjects which, like mental health, isn't really talked about in polite society. I must admit it wasn't something that had crossed my radar until I became an addict of the US TV drama WITHOUT A TRACE. Anyone who has seen that programme can't fail to have been affected by some of the heart rendering story lines. It made me think that had I ever ended up in the Police Force, that's the area I might have specialised in.


I am sure there will be a lot of special pleading once the cuts begin to take effect, but I hope Home Office and Education ministers will listen to the arguments of those who believe that this £500,000 saving is one cut too many.

28 comments:

Steven said...

Iain, your post on The Shamelessness of Harriet Harman.

If the Conservative party want to put Labour on the backfoot in Oldham East and Saddleworth it is these type of incidents they must jump on and jump up and down about - Labour being dishonest with the voters.

For that is the reason this by-election has come about and must be made a key theme of this by-election.

Labour has been even more shameless and dishonest since the election and making honesty with the electorate an issue in OE&S can resonate as the voters may just punish the party that brought this by-election about with its dishonesty.

Of course cuts will be a major issue in this by-election but that then allows the Conservatives to nullify Labour's campaign by showing that Labour are being dishonest again on cuts.

Labour are trying to give an impression that they either oppose cuts or, where they know people won't buy this, not in support of the cuts that are being put in place.

What the Conservatives and its coalition partners have to do is connect the issue of honesty (or Labour dishonesty) with the issue of cuts. The way to do this? Show that Labour planned cuts that are worse than have ever been experienced. That their cuts would be little different from the coalition's.

They are already exposed on this. It's up to the coalition parties to keep repeating that Labour cuts would be little different from coalition cuts. That Labour is being dishonest with the voters when they pretend to say they oppose this and that cut.

First you can use the admission by Alistair Darling that Labour cuts would be "deeper and tougher" that that of the Conservative Government in the 1980s. Destroy any chance they have of saying that the cuts of today are like the 1980s.

Second is the leaked Labour memo which has them admitting that their cuts would have been little different than the coalition's.

And keep on repeating those messages. Flood the OE&S with leaflets saying Labour is being dishonest with you on cuts - they admit their's will have been worse than Margaret Thatcher's and are little different from the coalition's. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

People get angry and disillusioned with dishonest politicians. Saying Labour would have just kept on borrowing only helps it appeal to those voters who believe that. Tell those voters that Labour is being dishonest about that and would have been little different from the coalition destroys that voter base for them. Makes them angry and disillusioned with Labour.

By saying that Labour would just have been the same would destroy Labour's USP on cuts as well as raise the issue that sparked this by-election - Labour dishonesty. It would nullify their USP and then destroy it with truth.

Elby the Beserk said...

If every family who "lost" such a person contributed two pounds to the charity, the missing sums would be more than covered.

Just looking at it a different way.

BrianSJ said...

New Labour has muddied the waters of the 'third sector'. We have been taken where good intentions normally lead. Charities have become political lobbying organisations. They have become government agencies. It is a very worthy cause; have they tried asking the public for money? How are missing people really found? I suspect it is people out walking the dog as usual. So why aren't they on milk cartons like in the US? What are the on-costs of getting the money via Sir Humphrey rather than directly? Your 'cut too far' line is just the sort of knee-jerk reaction we must avoid just now.

Tapestry said...

Government child 'management' agencies don't want charities nosing around. Missing children are big business, and the industry needs as many victims as they can acquire. It's what Kate McCann discovered. No one wants to talk about the size of the child pornography and exploitation business. The industry is protected by the state at every turn.

IanVisits said...

Maybe the parents of missing Maddie Mccann could donate some of their funds to the charity?

In a way, I hope any media awareness of how many people go missing everyday (although most turn up a few days later) might remind us that the Maddie situation is, sadly, not actually as rare as the media hype would lead us to believe.

Span Ows said...

275 THOUSAND?!!! That's about 750 a DAY! That cannot be true... Or is the number of calls and forms filled out, 270,000 of which are found/back home/case solved within 24 hours?

Rebel Saint said...

I never comprehended the scale of this problem, nor the enormity of its impact til it happened to someone I know. Reading some of the stories is heart breaking.

Isn't this "Big Society" money they are cutting? If a Government agency was in charge of this it would cost 10-20 times more and would produce just a tiny fraction of the success.

And if anyone can help me find the whereabouts of Steven Brown (a geordie, age 39), close personal friend, husband, father and an only son I'd be most appreciative. Last known whereabouts Neath (S Wales).

DespairingLiberal said...

"It's always fine until it's someone you know". Who said that? It was Herr Goebbels in his Diaries, writing about the annoying tendancy of some Germans to seek to defend Jewish people they were friendly with.

I zee nosinc wrong viz zis cut myself. It is sehr much in line viz ze fuhrer, Herr Camerosborne-von-Bullingdon's vishes, zat all frivolous vastes of money be shtopped and I mean shtopped, schwein! Zis money is fur die bankers und uzer zimilarly noble causes. Also - plaze Herr Dale under ze investigation. Er sind ein Traitor to ze Reich. Yawohl!

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Since it should be the right of everyone to "disappear" of their own free will, perhaps the emphasis, and the money, should be on providing a lifeline to those who wish to come back.

The money should come from the millions spent currently on "community cohesion" or in reality, pumping millions into organisations who have no interest in the common good.

People disappear for myriad reasons, but a welcome back, and the public presence of a high-profile, non-judgemental system, would ensure they stand a chance.

David Cotton said...

Span Owls:
IANAE, but I believe you are counted as missing if you are away from home for one night within various constraints (e.g. reported to the police). Hence the vast majority of that figure turn up later. Some people will be reported missing multiple times.

Lots of websites use the 275,000 figure, but it is harder to find how it is measured. From the Independent:
"
Some disappear for decades, and sources, including some inside the police, say the number of people in Britain who have been missing from family, friends and usual haunts for more than a year is at least 16,000 and could be as many as 20,000.
"

This is not to take anything away from the pain and suffering that the families of people who go missing for even one night suffer.

DespairingLiberal said...

Some new cut suggestions.

The pace of spending cuts is clearly running far too slowly. Not even Danny Alexander's obvious enthusiasms can mask the failure to cut deep, to cut sure and to cut swift.

We in the Conservative Central Office have toiled night and day with the help of some colleagues (R Murdoch; D Starkey; P Hitchens; G Fawkes; P Oborne) to come up with some new plans. These will cut government spending by the required 98.2% and for the first time since the Poor Laws, Britain will Truly Live Again and our entrepreneurs will breath free! The ceaseless toil of our brave and underfunded plutocrats (R Branston; A Sugary; Mr G Osborne-Hedged) will be set free! Businessmen of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your asset-backed gilt-hedged portfoliod derivative-driven non-obligations!

(1) It cannot be right that in this day and age money is spent on "civil servants" in the "security organisations". Henceforth, the work of MI5 and MI6 will be sub-contracted at no inconsiderable saving to the newspaper paparazzi. We understand from Rupert that this can be very efficiently performed for only twice the cost and that work will quite rightly refocus from Al Queda to the bosoms of young ladies caught inflagrante with vicars. Saving: -£291 million.

(2) Mr Hitchens has informed us that, outrageously, Britain still regularly spends money on aid projects in Afghanistan and on provisions for the common soldiery. This must stop! Henceforth, this money will be wisely re-allocated as part of the Big Society programme to the Hammersmith & Kabul branch of the N'Drangheta Della Serra, a part of Sicily Corporation (TM). These gentlemen will honorably invest the said funds in some rather fine Afghan poppy investments and re-employ all soldiers and aid workers present in the field as "Poppy Supervisors". All profits will be hedged by Bullingdon & Alexander, Hedgers to the Gentry. Saving: -£2 billion guineas.

(3) Prisons cannot remain in their present state of storing prisoners. They must at once be redesigned as Leisure Break Centres for the unemployed, who will spend much more of their time there in future, working on very interesting projects such as sewing mailbags. All former prisoners will be declared "cured" and sent to China to work on some rather splendid new mining operations run by Chile International Mining Experts (TM), the People who Get you Out of a Hole. The proceeds to be re-allocated to Clarke & Gove Big Society Hedges (2010), a wholly-owned venture of China Slave Holdings (global), ruler of the world. Saving: £3 per annum.

We commend these savings to the Haise. (Mr Alexander positively collapses into a state of blissful hysteria). Ere ere.

DespairingLiberal said...

Some new cut suggestions.

The pace of spending cuts is clearly running far too slowly. Not even Danny Alexander's obvious enthusiasms can mask the failure to cut deep, to cut sure and to cut swift.

We in the Conservative Central Office have toiled night and day with the help of some colleagues (R Murdoch; D Starkey; P Hitchens; G Fawkes; P Oborne) to come up with some new plans. These will cut government spending by the required 98.2% and for the first time since the Poor Laws, Britain will Truly Live Again and our entrepreneurs will breath free! The ceaseless toil of our brave and underfunded plutocrats (R Branston; A Sugary; Mr G Osborne-Hedged) will be set free! Businessmen of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your asset-backed gilt-hedged portfoliod derivative-driven non-obligations!

(1) It cannot be right that in this day and age money is spent on "civil servants" in the "security organisations". Henceforth, the work of MI5 and MI6 will be sub-contracted at no inconsiderable saving to the newspaper paparazzi. We understand from Rupert that this can be very efficiently performed for only twice the cost and that work will quite rightly refocus from Al Queda to the bosoms of young ladies caught inflagrante with vicars. Saving: -£291 million.

(2) Mr Hitchens has informed us that, outrageously, Britain still regularly spends money on aid projects in Afghanistan and on provisions for the common soldiery. This must stop! Henceforth, this money will be wisely re-allocated as part of the Big Society programme to the Hammersmith & Kabul branch of the N'Drangheta Della Serra, a part of Sicily Corporation (TM). These gentlemen will honorably invest the said funds in some rather fine Afghan poppy investments and re-employ all soldiers and aid workers present in the field as "Poppy Supervisors". All profits will be hedged by Bullingdon & Alexander, Hedgers to the Gentry. Saving: -£2 billion guineas.

(3) Prisons cannot remain in their present state of storing prisoners. They must at once be redesigned as Leisure Break Centres for the unemployed, who will spend much more of their time there in future, working on very interesting projects such as sewing mailbags. All former prisoners will be declared "cured" and sent to China to work on some rather splendid new mining operations run by Chile International Mining Experts (TM), the People who Get you Out of a Hole. The proceeds to be re-allocated to Clarke & Gove Big Society Hedges (2010), a wholly-owned venture of China Slave Holdings (global), ruler of the world. Saving: £3 per annum.

We commend these savings to the Haise. (Mr Alexander positively collapses into a state of blissful hysteria). Ere ere.

DespairingLiberal said...

Some new cut suggestions.

The pace of spending cuts is clearly running far too slowly. Not even Danny Alexander's obvious enthusiasms can mask the failure to cut deep, to cut sure and to cut swift.

We in the Conservative Central Office have toiled night and day with the help of some colleagues (R Murdoch; D Starkey; P Hitchens; G Fawkes; P Oborne) to come up with some new plans. These will cut government spending by the required 98.2% and for the first time since the Poor Laws, Britain will Truly Live Again and our entrepreneurs will breath free! The ceaseless toil of our brave and underfunded plutocrats (R Branston; A Sugary; Mr G Osborne-Hedged) will be set free! Businessmen of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your asset-backed gilt-hedged portfoliod derivative-driven non-obligations!

(1) It cannot be right that in this day and age money is spent on "civil servants" in the "security organisations". Henceforth, the work of MI5 and MI6 will be sub-contracted at no inconsiderable saving to the newspaper paparazzi. We understand from Rupert that this can be very efficiently performed for only twice the cost and that work will quite rightly refocus from Al Queda to the bosoms of young ladies caught inflagrante with vicars. Saving: -£291 million.

(2) Mr Hitchens has informed us that, outrageously, Britain still regularly spends money on aid projects in Afghanistan and on provisions for the common soldiery. This must stop! Henceforth, this money will be wisely re-allocated as part of the Big Society programme to the Hammersmith & Kabul branch of the N'Drangheta Della Serra, a part of Sicily Corporation (TM). These gentlemen will honorably invest the said funds in some rather fine Afghan poppy investments and re-employ all soldiers and aid workers present in the field as "Poppy Supervisors". All profits will be hedged by Bullingdon & Alexander, Hedgers to the Gentry. Saving: -£2 billion guineas.

(3) Prisons cannot remain in their present state of storing prisoners. They must at once be redesigned as Leisure Break Centres for the unemployed, who will spend much more of their time there in future, working on very interesting projects such as sewing mailbags. All former prisoners will be declared "cured" and sent to China to work on some rather splendid new mining operations run by Chile International Mining Experts (TM), the People who Get you Out of a Hole. The proceeds to be re-allocated to Clarke & Gove Big Society Hedges (2010), a wholly-owned venture of China Slave Holdings (global), ruler of the world. Saving: £3 per annum.

We commend these savings to the Haise. (Mr Alexander positively collapses into a state of blissful hysteria). Ere ere.

Mick Turatian said...

I can't agree with you.

A charity should not receive grants from the state. It already receives effective support from the public purse by dint of the tax status it enjoys including Gift Aid but beyond that it should rely on the beneficence of donors and its own fund-raising skills.

Financial support from the state also has the effect of crowding out individual contributions - why pay a second time if you're already paying with your taxes? Furthermore, it leads to complacency within the charity concerned - why bother to try raising funds if you can just put your hand out for state cash?

It's clear that anyone favouring a smaller state or promoting "The Big Society" (and we're told these aren't the same thing though I don't much care if they are!)should want state-funded charities to go the same way as the quangos.

neil craig said...

When NERC, the Natural Environemt Reseach Council is still getting £450 million a year to spend on about 20 minor researcg projects, mostly "proving" global warming worse than previously thought; providing Prof Jones with much of the £13.6 million he got for his frauds; & for promotong eco-fascist scare stories it is clear something is wrong. Cuts should be focussed on expensive & pointless bureaucracy so that there will be money for the relatively few useful things government does rather than vice versa.

neil craig said...

When NERC, the Natural Environemt Reseach Council is still getting £450 million a year to spend on about 20 minor researcg projects, mostly "proving" global warming worse than previously thought; providing Prof Jones with much of the £13.6 million he got for his frauds; & for promotong eco-fascist scare stories it is clear something is wrong. Cuts should be focussed on expensive & pointless bureaucracy so that there will be money for the relatively few useful things government does rather than vice versa.

Lord Blagger said...

500,000 pounds. 275,000 missing people.

2 quid donation and you've replaced the funding and more.

ie. Lets run things as charities.

Lets not have forced charities with the commissariat deciding who you get forced to donate to.

Lord Blagger said...

Steven

What the Conservatives and its coalition partners have to do is connect the issue of honesty (or Labour dishonesty) with the issue of cuts. The way to do this? Show that Labour planned cuts that are worse than have ever been experienced. That their cuts would be little different from the coalition's.

There is a simpler way.

Send everyone a bill for their share of the liabilities. All 300K of them.

Next, introduce a new tax, (you drop the income tax rate in the process). This is the debt tax going to pay off the debts and interest. A name is needed. Brown tax or labour tax springs to mind.

When people see the cumulative figure they will be truly outraged.

Span Ows said...

David Cotton, thanks! IANAE either! And I concur fully with your final sentence; in fact about the worst I've ever felt (apart from when my daughter nearly died) was losing my eldest at Caracas airport...and that was only for about an hour!

Overtiredandemotional said...

It the broken society were fixed, there would be many fewer disappearances. But in the meantime, the reaction to this post seems pretty heartless.

Blue Eyes said...

Don't people go "missing" because they do not want to be reunited with their families? All very well for the families to want to find their loved-ones, but should it be the state's responsibility to find them?

As Elby suggests, could not the families make a contribution to the efforts? If each paid, say, a tenner then the charity could be even more effective!

starfish said...

@DL

Even posted three time it wasn't funny

As to the OP - it seems to me that the figure of 275000 missing people(1 in 220?) is highly suspect and includes people who are missing intentionally - even though their families may not believe it to be so

As others have commented it is not the govt's job to fund charities, that is the whole point of them being charities!

If there is public support for this activity they can easily raise the mponey

Chalcedon said...

There are way too many fake charities which exist solely or mainly on taxpayers money doled out by the government. This should stop.

Mirtha Tidville said...

Take it out of the Rolls for Dictators fund, sorry Overseas Aid after all they have loadsamoney and Ozzy Osborne has just given them even more!!

Lesley P said...

@rebelsaint

Sorry to hear about your missing friend. Do contact our services team at Missing People on 0500 700 700. They will be able to offer you, and his family, help and advice.

Lesley at Missing People

Lesley P said...

@rebelsaint

Sorry to hear about your missing friend. If you or his family need some advice or support you can contact Missing People on 0500 700 700.

Lesley (from Missing People)

Blair said...

Gee, that means in twenty years, one in ten Britons will be officially missing!

What can we do to stop this onslaught of dislocation?!!!

Bollocks. Utter bollocks. Statistics FAIL.

FF said...

I agree with Iain. I hope the Government finds a way to direct some modest resources towards missing persons. It's not just the cut in grant to charities. The police will almost certainly cut back on their efforts in this area as their own budgets are reduced.

The gross numbers aren't important as they cover people that get reported to the police and show up a few hours later - as well as difficult and criminal cases. The importance to the families when they are reunited.

Comments above confirm Iain's remark that missing people is a subject that isn't talked about in polite society. Incidentally, mental health is closely linked to people going missing.