Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Reconnect Network: A significant step forward - but still split emotions!

It is a strange feeling, writing this blog post. On one hand I am happy to offer what support I can to the work of Missing People - but on the other hand I am writing this because my sister Clare went missing in April 2009, with all the sorrow and pain that entailed.  So I have split emotions...but that is nothing new. Throughout my whole experience of ‘missing’ I have found myself with split emotions.

The time Clare was missing was very distressing, but I also found the search for her very frustrating. During the search we could see the commitment of all the various agencies working hard to find my sister and giving their best, but it appeared evident to me that they had no method of talking to each other in a clear and consistent manner.

When they did talk to each other they appeared to ‘talk past’ each other; they appeared cocooned within their own world and processes without any real engagement with the other agencies or with the particular issue facing them. There seemed to be a vacuum between them which they were unwilling to bridge, and few conduits of effective information-exchange. Unfortunately, this resulted in a very ‘hit and miss’ approach to the search for Clare. 

Being the kind of person I am, I expressed my frustration to everyone - Missing People included. This issue resonated with them as the charity had commenced the development of the Reconnect Network, an information-sharing initiative, with the Department of Health around that time. The initiative, which was designed to enable the safe exchange of personal information about vulnerable missing adults between agencies, was piloted in the Westminster area in 2010.

During the pilot stage, Missing People put out 40 requests to the network to trace vulnerable adults, resulting in nine letters being passed to those individuals. Alongside the Health Service, police and Westminster City Council, five voluntary and community organisations have signed up to the Reconnect Network: Westminster Mind, London Cyrenians, Thames Reach, the Passage Day Centre and the Connection at St Martin’s Day Centre.

The intention is now to roll out the initiative to a wider number of partner organisations, and with further local 'pilots'. Wonderful news! - Missing People facilitating more effective working between a wide range of State and voluntary sector agencies – the ‘Big Society’ in action you might say!

I have been delighted to support Missing People in this project, however the split emotions still remain for me. With concerns about future funding of the charity; the uncertainties about Policing work on missing person cases in the future; the frustrations of the ‘Missing Rights’ campaign when the proposal for a Presumption of Death Act is ‘knocked back’ because it does not affect enough people and therefore “the cost outweighs the benefit”. (I genuinely did not know that Justice in this country was based on a cost-benefit analysis assessment! A similar law has been in place in Scotland since 1977 – maybe their cost benefit analysis had a different outcome?).

....See what I mean, split emotions. 

My frustration is not blind. There are those in power who care very much about this issue, and are on the side of pushing for change. Health Minister Paul Burstow attended the official launch of the Reconnect Network at the charity’s headquarters last week, and spoke powerfully about the need for improved safeguarding measures. I later spoke about the extraordinarily difficult experience of families searching for missing loved ones, and asked Mr. Burstow if, when he speaks with his Home Office and Justice colleagues, he wouldn’t mind passing along what he had heard from families at the ‘sharp end’ of the Missing experience.

I urge anyone supporting vulnerable adults with mental health needs to visit the website at to find out more, and to get in touch with Jonathan Hirst, the Local Areas Development Manager at Missing People, to learn how you might be able to get involved in the Reconnect Network initiative. He can be reached at

1 comment:

Someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK. The Missing Blog aims to give a voice to all those affected by this issue.

Written by families and friends of missing people, supporters working to raise awareness of the cause, and volunteers and staff at the charity Missing People, we hope that this blog will offer a window into the issue of missing.

The charity Missing People is a lifeline when someone disappears. To find out more about Missing People and ways that you can support the charity visit

Call or text the charity Missing People for free on 116 000, 24/7 if you or anyone you know is affected by a disappearance.