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.