National charity to lose all its government cash as police admit
their work on the issue will also be hit.
'The Independent on Sunday' last year highlighted the
crisis facing the charity, Missing People
George Osborne's multibillion-pound spending cuts threaten to sever
a national "lifeline" that helps tens of thousands of missing people
and the families they leave behind.
Britain's biggest missing persons charity has been plunged into
crisis after ministers confirmed it will lose all of its £500,000
Missing People, which helps more than 100,000
callers a year, warns that the cut will cause "catastrophic" damage
to its work supporting "mispers", runaways and their families.
And 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.
The confusion has also cast a shadow over the chances of identifying
the bodies of almost 1,000 people found in the UK over the past 50
The "dismantling of the missing persons infrastructure" has provoked
concern for a function that has traditionally been regarded as a low
police priority. The Police Federation last night confirmed that the
search for missing people would inevitably be hit by a reordering of
priorities in the face of cuts.
The warnings come only days after the parents of Madeleine McCann
complained that the British authorities were not helping them to
find their daughter, who disappeared from a Portuguese resort in
"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
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.
But MPs maintain that cutting more than £80bn from Government
spending over four years threatens to close both organisations.
Labour MP Ann Coffey, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for
Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, said: "The very core of the
front-line missing persons services is under threat."
She added: "Instead of removing the missing persons infrastructure,
we must maintain investment and underpin it with new legislation
that supports existing services and does much-needed filling in of
A Home Office spokeswoman said last night: "We are looking at what
improvements can be made if existing agencies work together and
share resources more effectively."
And a spokesman for the Department for Education said: "The
voluntary sector cannot be immune from reductions in public