Call for missing kids hotline

 

The Government has today been urged to implement a hotline for missing children.

The call comes on International Missing Children's Day, which is supported by the European Union.

The European Commission reserved the 116 000 phone number in 2007 as a common emergency number to be used to raise an alert on missing children.

While Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have all made the number operational and Belgium and Slovakia are to do so shortly, Ireland is among a number of countries who have yet to introduce the number locally.

The ISPCC said today that while incidents of child abductions are extremely rare in Ireland there are different types of problems which are more common including family runaway children and missing asylum seekers. It called on the Government to take action to implement the helpline as a matter of urgency.

“The ISPCC believe this is a vital service for missing children and their families, whether the child has been abducted, runaway, lost or taken by a parent. Europe is a continent without borders, and in order to better protect and support children Ireland needs to make certain that we have an operational 116 000 service for missing children,” said Caroline O’Sullivan, director of services with the ISPCC.

She said that Comreg has made the number available in Ireland but that no organisation has applied to use it.

“This is most probably because the number is a freephone number and needs to be operational on a 24 hour basis," said Ms O'Sullivan. "Having operated the Childline service for the past 21 years the ISPCC has the experience to run the 116 000 number but we need some Government funding to do it.”

The Labour Party, which today launched its children’s manifesto, also called for the introduction of the hotline with Susan O'Keeffe, the party's European candidate in the North West constituency urging the Communications Regulator to prioritise the activation of the service.

Ms O'Keefe also called on the European Union to put in place more supports and better structures to improve cross-border child abduction procedures and to increase the chances of the safe recovery of children who go missing.

The European Parliament recently agreed supported a move to set up a US-style "Amber Alert" early warning system.