Members of the public may call the 116 000 Hotline if they see a missing child or if they have information to pass on regarding a missing child. Information in this regard is published on the ISPCC web page entitled 'Missing Children's Hotline.' It is important to appreciate that the Hotline is a support service rather than an emergency service. Where callers require assistance outside the scope of the services provided by the Hotline, they are referred to An Garda Síochána or whichever branch of the emergency services is appropriate. Staff of the Missing Children's Hotline will also pass on information to the emergency services when it is appropriate to do so.
The 116 000 Hotline was set up to provide advice and emotional support to parents/guardians whose child is missing. This advice and support may also be accessed by the extended family of a child who is missing or, indeed, by the child themselves. A key component of the service is an awareness programme. It is vital that those who could benefit from the service know that it exists and that users are aware of the scope of the service.
During the initial set up phase of the service, the ISPCC focused on community based promotion of the service. This included presentations to local community groups. Subsequently, posters, flyers and business cards have been distributed to all Garda stations from Garda Headquarters, and promotional material has been distributed to a variety of community based projects in various locations throughout the country. Further, the ISPCC makes extensive use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter to advertise this service on an ongoing basis.
The 116 000 Missing Children Hotline website (www.missingchildrenhotline.ie) also serves to promote the service. In the first three months of 2014 the number of hits to this website (16,468) was 182% greater than the total number of hits (6059) during the entirety of 2013. This is a clear indication of the growing public awareness of the service.