The Children's Society logo

Missing from home

When a child goes missing or runs away, their cry for help should be heard

A child goes missing or runs away from home or care every five minutes in the UK.

Too often these children and young people become invisible, and struggle completely alone. When they are identified, too many are sent home, without anyone truly listening or understanding their cry for help. All children and young people who go missing or run away need urgent help without delay so the dangers in their life can be tackled.

We want to reach out to more children and young people and help get to the heart of the problem. 

 The number of children and young people going missing or running away from home and care is not diminishing

Major revelations about child sexual exploitation have made it plain what can happen when the needs of children and young people are ignored.

Many children and young people are not receiving the vital support they are legally entitled to when they have been located, missing out on the chance to explain what has happened to them at home and ask for professional help.

Missing Home graphic     Missing Home graphic      

Some of these children go missing more than once

Maddie's story

At 15 Maddie was suffering violence at home so started going missing.  Knowing she needed help, Maddie went to the social services for support but she wasn’t believed, and her mum was called to pick her up.

With nowhere else to turn, Maddie started sleeping on the streets or on friend’s sofas, 'I was too young to get scared so I would sleep in different places like behind schools or in phone boxes. If someone had attacked me, there would have been nothing I could have done.'

Then, after seeing one of our leaflets, Maddie decided to get in touch with her local service. 

'A project worker met me at a Burger King. They talked to me about my reasons for running away, and gave me advice. They were good at asking what I wanted, and persuaded me to give social services another chance because I didn’t know my own rights.'

Maddie continued to receive support from our services who helped her get support from the local authority. 

Now, Maddie is 32 and is helping other young people in a similar situation by working as a social worker.

Maddie

'Looking at it now I was in a lot of dodgy situations'

What are we doing about it?

We have campaigned on this issue for a quarter of a century, calling on the government, local authorities and the police to work together to make sure that every child who goes missing or runs away is listened to and gets help to stay safe.

We run local services for children and young people who go missing or run away and are with them every step of the way, until they're ready to share their experiences, often for the first time. 

As well as interviewing children and young people about why they ran away, we help them with confidential advice and advocacy to make sure they are heard in decisions affecting their lives. 

We're helping more than 18,000 vulnerable children and young people across the UK through our direct services

Find out about each of them below

Last year our campaigning and policy work brought about 27 national and local policy changes

Our policy work

Millions of children and young people have already benefited from the political changes our supporters have helped bring about.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT OUR POLICY WORK

Missing Home graphic

In 2014 we secured an important legal change which means that every child who goes missing or runs away must get a return home interview from an independent person who listens to them and helps them resolve issues so they can stay safe.

In 2016, we worked with the All Parliamentary Group (APPG) on our It is Good When Someone Cares report, which looks at how the police and children’s social services respond to children and young people categorised as ‘absent’. We have been campaigning on this for years. Only a child classed as missing receives an active police response. The APPG concluded that the ‘absent’ category must be abandoned. In 2017, The College of Policing issued new guidance scrapping the separate ‘absent’ category.

We have been calling for the introduction of a national missing persons database for a number of years. In 2017, the Government committed to introducing a National Missing Persons Register, expected to go live in 2018.



Our supporters around the country fund our services, volunteer with us, and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.

With your support we can change the lives of thousands more.



What you can do

We know the public share our fears for children and young people going missing or running away.

We have an active and powerful supporter base of more than 250,000 people from across the UK who have joined our cause.

We have 20,000 campaigners who took 50,000 actions last year – from emailing their MP, to lobbying the Lords, to tweeting energy companies – all to help change children’s lives.

With your support we can help change the lives of thousands more.

'it is fundamental to work to reduce risk for those young people at risk of running away from home' - project worker

Donate today to help us keep more children who are missing or have run away out of danger.

donate now

Practical advice for parents and carers

What to do if your child goes missing

CHECK

Check for signs of where they might have gone. Check their room, check social media, call their friends, check their friends' social media.

THINK

Think. Has there been a change in behaviour recently? Have they: been wearing different clothes, using substances or changed their friends or their circumstances in any way?

CALL

Call the police. You do not have to wait 24 hours. Keep a log of the police officer you have spoken to and dial 101 for updates. 

Further information and support:

Missing People offer free and confidential support by phone, text or email, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Young female walking alone outside

 

We're here to help you - advice for young people

What should you do if you're thinking of running away?

Talk to someone - ideally an adult you can trust, someone at school, family or parents of your friends. It can be hard to talk and confide in adults, but the outcome is always better if you do this rather than choosing to run away.

Talk to someone who understands what you are going through.

In an emergency you can contact:

What are the risks if i run away?

Running away may feel like the answer, but it can be dangerous - it is important you stay safe and free from harm.

You may end up sleeping rough or staying with someone you've just met and don't know anything about.

You may do things that are dangerous, like accepting lifts from strangers, or begging.

Being unsafe or on the streets means that you are at risk. You could be asked to do sexual acts in return for affection, money, drugs, alcohol, gifts or a place to stay - this is never okay. 

Missing Home graphicMissing Home graphicMissing Home graphic