8.25.2 Reporting All Children who Go Missing
Last reviewed: September 2018
Note that the police have adopted a revised definition of 'missing' with effect from 2013 - seeInterim Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons (ACPO, 2013), which should be read in conjunction with the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) Guidance on the Management, Recording and Investigation of Missing Persons (2010).
In September 2014 a link to the Revised Statutory Guidance on Children Who Run Away or Go Missing From Home or Care was added.
This procedure supplements the more detailed guidance contained in the Joint Policy for Children Missing in Sussex, and is designed to outline the action to be taken when a child goes missing from any setting.
The Joint Policy should be referred to for further details of:
Where the procedure refers to 'child' or 'children' these terms include young people under the age of 18 years.
Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established will be considered as missing until located, and their well-being confirmed.
All reports of missing children sit within a continuum of risk. The police use four ‘risk based’ categories of missing:
High: The risk of serious harm to the subject (child) or the public is assessed as very likely.
Medium: The risk of harm to the subject (child) or the public is as assessed as likely but not serious, or there is a low chance of serious harm
Low: The risk of harm to the subject (child) or the public is assessed as possible but minimal.
No Apparent Risk (absent): There is no apparent risk of harm to either the subject (child) or the public.
Where the child's location or reason for missing is unknown and/or there is cause for concern for the child because of their vulnerability or there is a potential danger to the public. A child in this category must be reported to the Police.
Children who become lost
Children who because of their age or due to a degree of intellectual impairment become separated from their carers, become temporarily disorientated and become missing as a result and would wish to be found. This is clearly very frightening and upsetting for all involved
The responsibility for responding to reports of children who go missing and undertaking enquires to locate them and ensure their return to a safe caring environment lies with the police.
Anyone may report a child as missing to the police; they do not have to be a parent, carer, or other relative. Any report of a missing child must be recorded by the police area receiving the report.
When a child or young person is missing from home or has become separated from their parents/carers, the priority must be to ensure the immediate safety of the child by finding them and returning them to their parents or carers, providing this does not place any child at greater risk of significant harm.
Where any professional becomes aware that a child is missing from home, and it appears that the child's parent or carer has not reported the matter to the police, they must themselves report the child as missing to the police.
In addition, professionals should always consider the potential safeguarding issues surrounding children who may either have been lost or missing, and whether these indicate a child has or is suffering abuse or neglect. Where appropriate, a referral should be made to children's social care.
Details of all children who go missing should routinely be passed to children's social care by the police, in order that any safeguarding issues can be considered.
Information to be made Available
The police are entitled to expect that parents and care providers take reasonable steps to locate a missing person prior to making a report to the police.If there are genuine concerns as to the child’s immediate safety it will always be appropriate to report the matter to Sussex Police and this should be done without delay.
The following procedure should be carried out when reporting a missing child.
1. Before contacting Sussex Police consider sections 2) and 3) below
2. What is the specific concern regarding the circumstances? I.e. are there specific risk factors associated with the child OR are there no apparent risk factors and the child is likely to return home within a short period?
3. What action can be taken to resolve the situation prior to contacting the Police?
4. Prior to contacting the Police, the following information should be collected in order to assist with
5. If unable to resolve, or there is an identified risk, a report should be made to either the Police Contact Centre via 101 or if there is any immediate risk to life or serious harm call 999
6. The Police call handler will then take the details of the missing child and complete a risk assessment. The outcome of the risk assessment will determine the Police response.
Informing the Media
The police are responsible for advising the media regarding children missing from home. Decisions to publicise will always be made in consultation with the parents or carers
The child should be given the opportunity to talk to someone independent of their family about their absence. In some instances this person could be a police officer. It may be however that the child would prefer to speak to a social worker or to an independent agency. When a child has been missing on more than one occasion, the return interview should always be conducted separately from the child's parents/carers.
Where an allegation of physical or sexual abuse is made or becomes evident, child protection procedures must be implemented and contact made immediately with the Safeguarding Investigations Unit or a referral made to children's social care.
If there is any suggestion that the child has been a victim or perpetrator of crime, consideration must be given to the securing evidence by police including by forensic examination. This should also include securing clothing and delaying washing/bathing in relevant cases. It must be remembered that all necessary permissions must be obtained from the child's parents and/or those with parental responsibility. It is essential to recognise that the welfare of the child is paramount and careful consideration must be given to the potential effects of such procedures on the child.