Missing children – advice for all

Every situation is different and there are no set rules about when a child should be considered missing; however if you are concerned about a very young child you should contact the emergency services immediately. For young people, if you have any doubts about whether to formally report them missing, for example, when a teenager fails to return after a time they have agreed, contact the police.

Children and young people who regularly go missing from home or care have been found to be at significant increased risk of:

Children and young people may be absent from where they should be for many reasons, not least wanting to spend more time with their friends. But this could put them at risk of harm and any prolonged or repeated absence can be caused for concern.

In such circumstances parents and practitioners need to respond and act on concerns.

Runaway Helpline has launched a website at www.runawayhelpline.org.uk  and has a free 24/7 confidential helpline on 116000.

Advice for young people

Running away from home is not always planned. It can be a last-minute decision, and you might not be prepared – with no money, warm clothes or any idea about where you might seek help.

Reasons why you might want to run away include:

  • arguments with your family
  • violence in your family
  • physical abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • problems at school
  • pregnancy
  • forced marriage
  • running away from care
  • being neglected (not looked after properly at home)
  • being in a stressful situation, like after the death of someone you loved
  • problems with drugs or alcohol.

If you feel like the only option is to run away, sometimes it can help to talk things through with someone else first. There may be options you hadn’t thought about. Some of the people you might want to talk to could include a parent or other family member, a teacher, a care worker or social worker.

If you don’t want to talk to someone you know CALL OR TEXT the Runaway helpline on 116000 – IT IS CONFIDENTIAL AND FREE EVEN IF YOU HAVE NO CREDIT.

Or visit their website at www.runawayhelpline.org.uk where there is lots of information and help on the problems and reasons that young people run away.

Young people who go missing or absent are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violent crime, gang exploitation, and drug and alcohol misuse – for more advice on this visit the It’s Not Okay website at www.itsnotokay.co.uk

Information for parents and carers

Many children who go missing stay with friends or family members, but there are some who do not have or don’t access these support systems, or who are forced to stay in environments that are harmful to their safety and well-being, and so end up engaging in activities that may put them at risk.

What to do if you think someone is missing or has run away
Every situation is different and there are no set rules about when a child should be considered missing; however if you are concerned about a very young child you should contact the emergency services immediately.

For young people, if you have any doubts about whether to formally report them missing, for example, when a teenager fails to return home after a time they have agreed, contact the police. There is no time limit on when you can make a report. You don’t, for example, have to wait 24 hours.

If your child is missing or has run away from home, you must contact the Police. Dial 999 in an emergency situation or call 101.

Missing People is a charity that can help if someone you care about has gone missing. Missing People offers support, advice and practical help at this difficult time.

Call their Helpline on 116 000  or email 116000@missingpeople.org.uk  or visit their website at
www.missingpeople.org.uk/

Missing Kids UK offers advice for parents and guardians on their website at www.missingkids.co.uk/

The Children’s Society has published a guide for parents and carers whose children are at risk of running away from home. The guide includes information on why children run away, what questions you may be asked by the police if your child does run away, and what to do when your child returns; find this on their website at  www.childrenssociety.org.uk/protecting-young-runaways

Catch 22 work with young people and families in trouble, providing early intervention, targeted and specialist support services to those in crisis, leaving care, missing from home or with substance misuse or mental health problems.

Services support people no matter what their situation; for more information visit their website at  www.catch-22.org.uk/

Supporting young people who run away or go missing
Young people who regularly go missing from home or care have been found to be at significant increased risk of:

  • becoming involved in crime to survive, from stealing to criminal gang involvement;
  • sexual exploitation and abuse;
  • drug and alcohol misuse;
  • mental and sexual health issues;
  • exclusion from school and failure to meet educational milestones.

Runaway Helpline has launched a website at  www.runawayhelpline.org.uk/and a free 24/7 confidential helpline 116000. Share this website with young people – there is lots of advice about the problems and reasons that young people run away, to inform discussions and to help.

Guidance for practitioners

National guidance
Guidance relating to children who run away or go missing from home or care can be found on the government website at  www.gov.uk/children-who-run-away-or-go-missing-from-home-or-care

Guidance relating to children missing from education can be found on the government website at www.gov.uk/children-missing-education

Local guidance
The Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership (GMSP) has developed a standardised approach to dealing with missing and absent people of all ages across Greater Manchester – the GMSP procedures found at  greatermanchesterscb.proceduresonline.com should be used. These are supported by the MSB Missing from Home or Care Strategy (PDF) published in July 2017 and the Manchester Missing from Home or Care Procedures (Nov 2018)

The Children’s Society ran a project in Manchester, Salford and Oldham and produced guidance for parents and carers which can be downloaded to share from the website www.partnersinsalford.org/practical_advice_for_parents-carers (PDF) and www.partnersinsalford.org/parenting_support (PDF)

Barnardo’s report relating running away to child sexual exploitation ‘Running from Hate to What you think is love’ is available on their website at www.barnardos.org.uk/_cse_running_from_hate (PDF)

Downloads available on this page:

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