The London Child Protection Procedures define a child as missing if their whereabouts are unknown, whatever the circumstances of their disappearance. Sometimes children stay out longer than agreed as a boundary testing activity. These children have taken unauthorised absence and would not usually come within the definition of missing.
According to police figures, around 360,000 children/young people run away each year, although the real number is likely to be more, as not all cases are recorded. Children looked after are three times more likely to run away than other children.
The child/young person may be missing from care or home because they are suffering physical, sexual or emotional abuse and/or neglect. Children/young people who go missing may be victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking. In addition, young people who are missing may be fleeing forced marriage or ‘honour’ based violence.
Many of these young people stay with friends or family members, but some do not have access to support and could be at risk of significant harm through physical or sexual abuse. They may end up in potentially harmful situations including sleeping rough.
Children/young people missing from education are also at risk of harm.
Whatever the reason children/young people go missing, running away is often a sign that something is wrong in the child’s or young person’s life and a response must be made quickly.
If a child/young person goes missing you must make an immediate referral to Children’s Services Contact Team, 020 7527 7400, email@example.com.
If a child/young person is missing from education you must make an immediate referral to the Social Inclusion Team on 020 7527 5778.