Safe & Found Online

Finalist category: Ageing Society Award


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Ageing Society Award, Finalist, Winner, 2019

Safe and Found Online is a social enterprise established by two long standing work colleagues in the social housing sector, Chris Cheshire and John Henderson. John has been an Alzheimer’s Society volunteer since 2012, and helped to care for his late Dad, who lived with dementia and unfortunately went missing a couple of times. Although he was luckily found, at that time there were no specific Police search mechanisms in place for people with dementia, leading John to look into this apparent gap in provision.

Studies show that ‘Of the half a million people in the UK with dementia who live in their own homes, more than 40 per cent will get lost at some point, and about 25,000 will get lost repeatedly’. (University of Southampton – April 2018) In 2011, the Police developed The Herbert Protocol’ which allows carers and people living with dementia to complete a form recording all vital details of their family member or friend. In the event of them going missing, it can then be handed to police to reduce time in gathering this information.

Safe & Found Online is a digital version of the Herbert Protocol, which combines a website and mobile phone app, allowing people to update their secure profile online, including the ability to upload recent / daily photographs – just like Facebook. Building on the basic profile concept, S&F also incorporates GPS, so if a ‘S&F’ user is reported missing, with pre-arranged permission, profile and location data is automatically accessible to control room screens and officer’s mobile devices. This will be completely new, and means a search can begin immediately with live information transmitted directly to officers on patrol –  increasing the prospect of a successful outcome. S&F’s GPS still helps the Police if it isn’t transmitting live (e.g. a lost phone). Historic location data is stored and immediately available via the user’s profile. So, where a change in trip routines or walking habits hasn’t been noted, the location data shows it.

S&F’s aim is to give users, their families and carers the peace of mind to know that should they be reported missing, the Police will be using the best information and technology they need.

The social enterprise has been working on the product with two Police Forces  – North Yorkshire and Cheshire. Field tests have been completed with police officers posing as missing persons and being ‘found’ by colleagues. The Minimum Viable Product has now been tested and approved by the Police and the team are now seeking £100k funding to complete the final product and prepare it for national launch with all Forces by the New Year. As part of this there is a programme of user group involvement in place with the 3 Nations Dementia Working Group, facilitated by the Alzheimer’s Society.

Chief Inspector Simon Newell who leads on The Herbert Protocol for Cheshire Police has confirmed their intention for S&F’s incorporation into their Missing Persons procedures with a target date of September this year. He said of the latest trial in May:

“testing was very successful, if this could be replicated for missing persons with dementia we would no doubt save lives”

Additionally, Deputy Chief Constable Janette McCormick Lead for Disabilities for The National Police Chiefs Council, would be keen to see a successful S&F adopted across all Forces in England and Wales.

Safe and Found Online uses simple technology  – at its heart it’s a Facebook profile linked to a GPS tracker that you can find on any eight year old smartphone, that’s why they use them in their field tests. The aim is for it to be part of immediate post diagnosis support for people with dementia. It’s not a specialist device that lights up and says ‘look I’ve got a brain disease’, it’s just another app you download on your phone. By doing this, the Police will have access to important data immediately a person registered on S&F is reported missing, a situation where every minute counts.

The S&F team hope that using the app will contribute to encouraging independence, reducing isolation and improve health with the ability to walk safely. However, from the outset their prime motivation has always been to try and help the Police save lives.

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