A pilot scheme tasking professional youth workers to help prevent vulnerable young people from going missing is underway in Sheffield.

The scheme, funded by the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit, involves youth workers from Sheffield Futures working with looked-after children, who go repeatedly missing from residential care homes across the city, to help them avoid harmful situations.

Until now, this work to seek missing young people has been undertaken fully by the already over-stretched police and children’s social care.

Gail Gibbons, CEO at Sheffield Futures, said: “Professional youth work skills are a natural fit for this work to establish and maintain relationships in communities. Youth workers can use their knowledge of how young people develop through their teenage years, how to tackle challenging behaviour, de-escalate conflict and safeguard young people.

“It makes sense that these skills are employed to engage young people who are vulnerable, hard to reach, at risk of exploitation and are repeatedly going missing, and we’re already seeing promising signs that this approach can work.”

The pilot, which began in January and will run until March, aims to reduce the number of times a young person may go missing, and build relationships with young people to increase their ability to keep themselves safe.

The scheme enables youth workers to work in close partnership with children’s social care to gather valuable information on where young people might go as well as actively seeking them and work with South Yorkshire Police when necessary for powers of access to property, or when facing criminal behaviour.

Superintendent Lee Berry, Joint Head of the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit said: “Young people go missing from care homes for a variety of reasons. This behaviour leaves them vulnerable and at risk of exploitation. The work of Sheffield Futures is crucial in reducing the number of times a young person goes missing and working with them to understand why they are going missing and how they could be at risk of harm.

“By reducing the amount of missing episodes, this work is not only beneficial to the well-being of the young person, but also all services involved in supporting the young person.”