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Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is a key duty on local authorities. Children running away and going missing from home, care or view is a safeguarding issue. The DfE published new statutory guidance in January 2014 which primarily addressed the responsibilities on Local Authorities to children who run away or go missing from home care or view.

Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care


Definitions of missing

Missing Person – (Association of Chief Police Officers’ Definition): “a missing person is anyone whose whereabouts are unknown, whatever the circumstances of disappearance. He or she will be considered missing until located and his or her wellbeing, or otherwise, established.”

Young runaway and missing – children/young people up to the age of 18 who have run away from their home or care placement, have been forced to leave, or whose whereabouts is unknown;

Abscond –  a child/young person who is absent from their placement without permission and who is subject to an order or requirement resulting from the criminal justice process such as curfews, tagging etc or a secure order made in either civil or criminal proceedings. In these cases the location of the child must be known otherwise they are deemed missing.

Child Abduction – where a child/young person has been abducted or forcibly removed from their place of residence a
report should be made immediately to the police.

Cambridgeshire Police no longer use the category of unauthorised absence for children under 18

You do not need to wait 24 hours report your child as missing immediately

Call the police on 101 or call 999 if you think someone is in immediate danger. Tell them you are reporting your child as missing and give any information you have about any recent concerns.

Check your house, garage and any outdoor space. Ask friends or family if anyone knows where they are.

Call text and message your child via mobile, social media or apps. Stay calm, show them you’re concerned and just want them home safe.

Further information and what to do when your child returns can be found in “What to do if your child goes missing” Advice for Parents and Carers

Additional Resources is a service that you can phone text or email 24/7 call or text the runaway helpline 116000 (free & confidential)

The Children’s Society have developed a range of resources to help understand how to support vulnerable young people, in particular those who go missing. These resources help you know what to do when a child goes missing and how to prevent children from going missing in the first place. The Children’s Society has developed a series of guides for:

  • Local safeguarding leads
  • Local authority commissioners
  • Professionals working with children and young people
  • Parents and carers
  • Children and young people

The resources are available on the Children’s Society website.

The Childrens Society have developed a Runaway Charter that you may find helpful in working with children and young people who runaway –

To support a child they can ring or contact Childline – or ring 0800 111

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