Well yes, the police are very busy, particularly at the moment, but that does not mean any less effort is made to find the hundreds of young people that go missing every single day in the UK.  Every police force in the UK has a dedicated team of detectives and civilians making enquiries to find anyone reporting missing.  In the Metropolitan police, this is called the missing team.  I know this because I used to run it.    I would like to use this opportunity to dispel some myths and to clarify points of confusion around what happens when someone goes missing.

So, let’s kick off with missing or absent.

Someone is missing when their whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests that they may be subject to a crime or a risk to themselves or others.

Someone is absent when they are not at a place they are expected or required to be and there is no apparent risk.

There are many children, particularly children in care that go missing on a fairly frequent basis.  These are the young people most likely to be reported ‘absent’ by the police and this can only be authorised with the consent of the local authority.  Any child under the age of 13 will always be reported as missing.  If someone who is absent does not return within 24 hours then they will be missing.

Risk assessment

This is completed by a police officer and is based on the circumstances around the disappearance.  Anyone under 18 years old will automatically be at least medium risk.  Anyone classed as high risk will have officers working around the clock to find them.  It also means the police can ask the bank and mobile phone providers to give the police any relevant information.

What happens when someone returns?

The police will conduct a safe and well check.  A further safe and well check can be organised with a social worker or quite often someone from a charity such as Barnardo’s.  This is to ensure the person has not been the victim of a crime during the missing episode.


If you would like to find out more about creating prevention strategies for people who go missing and more about your role and responsibilities in the care setting, then purchase my online CPD accredited missing persons course.

Missing Persons