10 July 2008

EU - Commission sounds alarm on 116 child hotline delays

Parents and children need to be able to call help quickly and free of charge while travelling in the EU. In the UK and Belgium alone more than 7,500 children were reported missing in 2007. Public concern about child safety has been heightened by cases like the disappearance of Madeleine McCann in Portugal. In 2007, the Commission took action by reserving, at national level, six-digit numbers starting with 116 for missing children hotlines (116000) and for helplines (116111) with which children can seek assistance. However, a recent EU survey shows that only a minority of Member States have assigned these numbers to service providers: seven for 116000 and ten for 116111. The Commission has called on Member States to speed up implementation of these numbers. Under EU law Member States do not have to assign the numbers, but are required to reserve them and inform the public and providers of their availability. The survey shows few efforts by Member States to make known the numbers' availability, delaying their implementation.