Under EU telecoms rules agreed in 2009, the 116000 number is reserved in all EU member states for a missing children hotline. My Department established and is leading a cross-sectoral Project Team, including representatives of my own Department, the Department of Justice and Equality, ComReg and An Garda Síochána to advance this matter. Following cross departmental consultation and an examination of the issues involved by the Project team, Comreg, which has responsibility for allocation of this number in Ireland, has now allocated the number to the ISPCC. The ISPCC has recently been successful in securing EU Daphne funding to support the establishment of the line.
It is envisaged that a phased implementation of the 116000 line will commence in 2012. In the interim, a holding response is currently heard if an individual rings the 116000 number. The number advises callers wishing to report a missing child to contact An Garda Síochána and advises children seeking assistance to contact the ISPCC.
Once operational, the line will:
(1) Provide emotional support to children who are missing, their family and others responsible for the missing child.
(2) Offer guidance and advice to the callers regarding a missing child.
(3) Report risk cases (where identifying information has been received) to the Garda/HSE as per Children First Guidance.
(4) Support the Garda Investigation where appropriate.
(5) Redirect calls outside the scope of the line.
It is important to note that the 116000 number is not an emergency number. Emergency calls should always be directed to the 999/112 number in the first instance, where the relevant emergency responses, including the recently launched Garda Missing Children Amber Alert mechanism, may be activated. The establishment of the 116000 line will, however, be of valuable support and assistance to families of missing children and to missing children themselves.