Charity's support for the relatives of missing people
6:00am Wednesday 26th February 2014 in Features
Since 2010, Peter Lawrence has worked with Missing People – a national charity which helps families around the country who have missing relatives.
Susannah Drury, director of policy and advocacy with the charity, said Mr Lawrence’s work as a family representative had helped spread the word about the organisation, and bring major points to the attention of the Government.
One of the things the organisation is fighting for is guardianship, which would make it easier for the families of missing people to deal with the estates and finances of their relatives.
She said: “The Government has agreed to do a consultation on it so families can apply to the courts to deal with missing relatives’ banking mortgage and financial affairs so they can stop Direct Debits draining bank accounts, or sort out payments of mortgages and bills.
“Occasionally a bank might use its discretion to resolve that but it is something families have to deal with. Even if they’re lucky enough to find someone who will help them, that’s just one institution, and all of us have so many utility providers, banks, insurance companies, it could take over your life trying to deal with it.”
Susannah said Mr Lawrence had provided “very effective evidence” to a justice select committee at Parliament, which had been drawn from the family’s experience after Claudia’s disappearance. She also said the length of time Claudia has been missing was very sad, but sadly not unique.
She said: “We know that 98 per cent of people who go missing return or are found again within a week. It’s a small number going missing for much longer but it’s a significant group of people.
“About 300,000 people are reported missing every year to the police in England and Wales. Even if just two per cent are missing more than a week, that’s 6,000. It’s a relatively small numbers but for people in that situation it’s incredibly distressing.”
Susannah said every one of the 1,000 cases they deal with each year was different, with the limbo of not knowing what had happened to a loved one being described by one mother “like time stopped”, or “like a bad dream that doesn’t have an end”.
She said: “People have to carry on but a huge part of that life is changed forever and way of being in the world is changed forever.
“At first there’s a bit of a state of shock, but then families describe it to us as moving between hope and fear – hoping for the best, and fearing for the worst at the same time. Every family experiences it differently and cope differently. Some turn to friends and family, some search for the person, some turn to faith.”