Concerned about a child or young person? Call 0345 603 7627

Missing Children - The Facts

This information must be read in conjunction with the SET Procedures (chapter 20).


It is important to understand that the terms missing, absent, high and medium risk, have specific meanings in practice - details on the definitions can be found here.


Most children and young people who go missing return the same day and some incidents concern children and young people who are late home and for whom there are no other concerns. However, very often running away/ going missing is an indicator of underlying problems which need further intervention such as:



Young people who run away may be at risk of significant harm whilst away from home or care placement e.g. those who remain missing overnight or for several days, sleeping rough and in contact with people posing a risk to them.  Young people may also only be missing for a short time period and risk may still be significant.


Police will lead efforts to locate children who are missing, working closely with Children’s Social Care when children are missing from care placements. This also applies to children living at home.


When the child is located the Police will carry out an immediate vulnerability check (safe and well) to identify any indications that the young person has suffered harm; where and with whom they have been; and to give them an opportunity to disclose any offending by, or against, them.


Police, Children’s Social Care & any agency involved with a child who has run away/ gone missing will share information and where necessary take action to safeguard or offer support to the child and family.


Arrangements will be made for all children who have been missing to have the opportunity to take up a Missing Chat.  This offer is made irrespective of whether the child lives at home or is Looked After by the Local Authority. This is a voluntary activity and all Missing Chats are conducted by trusted professionals who meet the statutory guidance recommendations of being trained appropriately.  The Missing Chat will build on information gained from the Police Vulnerability Check and serve to identify any harm the child may have suffered, understand and address the reasons why the child ran away and consider preventive measures regarding further running away.


All Children who are Looked After by the Local Authority will have meaningful contact with their Social Worker and been seen within 72 hours.  Their Social will complete a Missing Prevention Plan.  The Prevention Plan aims to establish whether going missing is a pattern of behaviour and support informed judgement about what action needs to be taken.  Social Workers are required to exercise a professional judgement of the level of risk (low/medium/high) based on knowledge of the young person, their circumstances and the missing episode.  Social Worker’s will also complete an Action Plan with the child to explore what can be done to reduce the risk of further missing episodes.



A child going missing from their educational setting can be a potential indicator that they are at risk of harm.  Schools should follow safeguarding procedures in cases where children go missing and there is a concern, particularly when children go missing on repeat occasions. Schools should act to identify any risk of abuse and neglect, including sexual abuse or exploitation.  Where a child is missing during the school day, the same must apply.  If a school is concerned about a child who has been missing, the school must discuss this with the Designated Safeguarding Lead taking advice regarding any course of action that may need to be taken.  If you require further advice, you can call the Family Operations Hub on 0345 603 7627 and request a Professional Consultation.


Missing Person Safe Call Team


The Missing Person Safe Call Team provide a debrief service to children and young people who have recently been missing and have potentially come into contact with gangs or involved in county lines.


The team accept self-referrals from children and young people and referrals from external professionals and agencies (police, social services, schools, charities, youth organisations etc). They work closely with children, young people and their parents/carers to ensure that the risk of exploitation is minimised and ensure that information is shared between social workers, youth workers and other services that they may be receiving support from.


They aim to offer a non-judgemental service to ensure these children/ young people have a safe space to talk about their experiences in confidence. They also support the families and carers of those who have missing episodes; providing them with emotional support and guidance.


Operating hours for the Safe Call Team are Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm. There is also a free 24 hour helpline which is available should support be needed out of hours.


Professionals can complete online referral form. Or, can send an e-mail to the Safe Call Team with the name of the young person, DOB, telephone numbers and reason for referral with any concerns highlighted.


SafeCall Telephone:   020 8392 5710


SafeCall E-mail:


24/7 Helpline:  116 000


24/7 Helpline E-mail:



Information for parents


Step by step process of reporting a missing child - Essex Police.


Please note, if you haven't conducted any enquiries yourselves (called the child’s mobile, called friends etc) or you believe you know where your child is, the police may ask you to call back once these tasks have been completed, unless there is an immediate risk. 


If you feel you know where the child may be but cannot leave the house to see if they are there, this must be explained to the police, so they can consider the context in their decision making.


If there is felt to be an immediate risk of danger then this must be reported on 999.


There is information specifically for parents/carers on this page.