A missing person is someone whose whereabouts can't be established and where the circumstances are out of character or suggest they may have been a victim of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another.
Further definitions and guidance can be found on the HSCP website.
What to do if a child is missing
We are all responsible for protecting children, young people and those who are vulnerable. Running away can be symptomatic of wider problems in a child or young person’s life but, whatever the reason, one thing is clear: children who decide to run away are unhappy, vulnerable and in danger.
The Children’s Society has identified the following risk factors that can lead to a child or young person going missing:
- Arguments and conflicts
- Conflict within a placement
- Poor family relationships
- Physical and emotional abuse
- Boundaries and control
- Step parent issues
The immediate risks associated with going missing include:
- No means of support or legitimate income, leading to high risk activities
- Involvement in criminal activities
- Victim of abuse
- Victim of crime, for example through sexual assault and exploitation
- Alcohol/substance misuse
- Deterioration of physical and mental health
- Missing out on schooling and education
- Increased vulnerability
Where there are any concerns that a child is missing the police should be contacted.
Responsibility of parents/carers:
Parents, those with parental responsibility and anyone else who has care of a child without parental responsibility should take all reasonable steps to locate the child and ascertain their safety before reporting the child as or missing to the Metropolitan Police. They are expected to undertake the following basic measures to try to locate the missing child if considered safe to do so:
- Search bedroom/accommodation/outbuildings/vehicles
- Contact known friends and relatives where child may be
- Visit locations that the child is known to frequent, if it is possible
Once the basic measures are completed it is expected that the Police will be informed without delay.
If there is any serious concern for the safety of the child at any stage, the Police should be informed immediately.
All agencies / members of the public
If it comes to the attention of any agency that a child is missing, they must advise the parent/carer of the need for them to report the matter to the police. They also need to advise the parent of the agency’s duty to ensure that the matter has been reported to the Police and that they will follow this up by contacting the Police to verify that the child has been reported missing.
The consent of a person with parental responsibility will be sought for a photograph to be used in any subsequent missing person investigation.
When reporting to the Police, the Call Taker will likely use the following set of questions to assist in the decision making / risk assessment process:
- Detail the brief circumstances of going missing / absent?
- Where, when last seen and by whom?
- What has been done so far to trace this individual, and if not why not? **Emphasise to caller they should undertake reasonable enquiries and continue to do so **
- What is the description of the person including clothing?
- Is this significantly out of character, if so why?
- What is the specific concern in this instance (if any)? (e.g. vulnerable due to age, Infirmity, mental health or physical illness, cognitive delay and learning disability)
- Any last known intentions or preparations made prior to going missing?
- Have they taken any personal items with them – clothing, passport etc?
- What is the person’s last known Home Address
- Do they have a mobile phone in their possession? (Network and Phone Number required)
- Identify any place they may go to and why: specific interest or to find solace/peace and quiet?
- Are they subject to any Mental Health Section- if so what and why?
- Are there any specific medical needs that require medication and if this isn’t available what are the effects and timescales e.g. diabetes, asthma, allergies, as these could result in impaired communication and risk to life if untreated in severe cases?
- Are they likely to be a victim of crime – if so why?
- Are they likely to be the victim of abuse – if so explain? (Domestic / Sexual / Racial / Bullying / Homophobic)
- Are they currently at risk of sexual exploitation or on Child Protection register – If so from whom?
- Are they likely to self-harm, attempt suicide – give details including last known attempt – (how, where, when)?
- Have they been exposed to harm in any previous missing episode – if so provide details (including when)?
- Do they pose a danger to themselves or any other persons?
- Does the missing person have a current or previous history of drug or alcohol abuse (give details)?
- Details of any vehicle using or normal mode of transport if known.
- Details of messaging and social media used including usernames and passwords if known.
- What access do they have to money?
- Is there any other information relevant to their absence that may affect or influence a supervisor’s risk assessment.
- Have you completed the question set? Answering yes will close.
If you believe that a child is at immediate risk, this should be reported without delay to Metropolitan Police on the emergency number 999. Non-emergency reporting can be made by calling 101.
Metropolitan Police Missing Persons Teams can be contacted as follows:
Detective Sergeant Marc Robinson
Safeguarding – Missing Persons Unit
Metropolitan Police Service
North Area BCU (Enfield & Haringey)
Edmonton Police Station,462 Fore Street, London, N9 0PW
Telephone: 020-8345-4535 ext 724535
You can also speak with a social worker or the Missing Co–Ordinator Samantha.Hatchett@haringey.gov.uk on 020 8489 2932 / 07976 614810 to support the Return to Home or Care Interview