Research and information

A collection of current knowledge about the issue of missing as well as our research reports, projects, collaborations and events.  

Understanding the reasons why people go missing and the impact on families left behind enables Missing People and our partners to provide better services.

Missing People’s research team conducts research and evaluation projects on a range of topics, and seeks to share the findings through these web pages. 

The Policy and Research team also provides a hub of information about missing, advocates for change through campaigns and policy work, and monitors and evaluates the charity's impact.

Missing News

The Policy and Research team circulates a regular newsletter, Missing News, containing up to date information about research, policy, events and sector developments. To sign up to Missing News, or to read previous editions, click here.

Article Index

From here you can download research publications, free of charge, in PDF format.

Below are also copies of Missing People's  survey reports, conference presentations and consultation submissions. Research reports are ordered by date, most recent first.

Research reports

"All of us were broken" (2019)

This report explores the experiences of families whose children have been criminally exploited, including through county lines. It covers: Early warning signs of exploitation; the links between missing and exploitation; the impacts of the  escalation of exploitation; the support needs of families and children; and recommendations.

The report provides details of the harrowing experiences of the families, the lack of adequate support for children and families, and the need for a better response from all agencies involved in responding to exploitation.


A Safer Return (2019)

This research explores the value of Return Home Interviews (RHIs) for children who have been missing. Based on analysis of interviews adressing nearly 600 missing episdoes for over 200 children, key findings include: 1 in 7 children had experienced sexual exploitation; 1 in 12 had been victim of criminal or other exploitation; 1 in 5 disclosed mental health issues. Click here for the full report.


Still in Harm's Way (2018)

Due to a data inputting error which was only identified after the initial publication of the report, this version of the report has been amended and contains slightly different data than the original. This does not significantly change any of the findings. Uploaded 12 August 2019

An update to the Heading Back to Harm report showing the concerning numbers of trafficked and unaccompanied children who are still going missing from local authority care. The findings are based on Freedom of Information requests to local authorities. This updated report found worrying numbers of already vulnerable children going missing, and an increase in the number of children reported as identified or suspected victims of trafficking since the original research.


Heading Back to Harm: A study on trafficked and unaccompanied children going missing from care in the UK (2016)

Image of Heading Back to Harm research report cover

This research study analysed Freedom of Information request data from 217 local authorities, about trafficked and unaccompanied children going missing from care. The research also drew on information collected during two focus groups with chiildren and young people who have been trafficked, and a large-scale survey of professionals across the UK. Click here or on the report title above for the full report, or click here for the summary report. A technical report is available on request; please click This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view send an email request. (Simon, A., Setter, C. and Holmes, L. 2016).

*This version amends a typeset error in the table 'Regional breakdown of numbers of children in selected categories' in Appendix 3 on page 113 of the printed report. Uploaded 22nd November 2016.


Running the Risks: The links between gang-involvement and young people going missing (2015)

Running the Risks report cover image

This research by Missing People, in partnership with the Catch 22 Dawes Unit, reveals how gangs are setting children up in flats for weeks at a time to sell drugs in provincial areas. The report calls for gang-involved young people who go missing from home or care to be treated as victims rather than as criminals.  Click here or on the report title above for the full report, or click here for the summary report. (Sturrock, R. and Holmes, L. 2015).



Community Mental Health Teams and the response to Missing Patients (2015)

This research explores the response of Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) when a patient in the community goes missing. The report addresses whether CMHTs ever discharge missing patients and how they respond when a missing patient returns. Click here or on the report title above to download the full report, or click here or on the image on the right for an infographic summarising the key findings. (Rickford, R. 2015).




When the Search is Over: Reconnecting missing children and adults (2014) 

When the Search is Over report cover image

This project explored the ways in which missing people reconnect to family, carers or a place of safety, and makes recommendations for improvements in the way reconnections are facilitated and supported. The full report can be downloaded by clicking on the report title above and this, a summary report and individual chapters are available to download from the project page at: 'When the Search is Over' (Holmes, L. 2014).



People with Intellectual Disabilities Going Missing (2012)

People with Intellectual Disabilities Going Missing report cover image

This research highlights the relationship between intellectual disability and going missing, with a view to offering better support to people who may be considered at risk of going missing. The paper seeks to define terms such as 'intellectual disability' and 'missing', using specific cases to highlight areas to focus on for improving support for vulnerable people. Click here or on the report title above to download the full report as a PDF. (Rickford, R. 2012).



Still Hidden? Going missing as an indicator of child sexual exploitation (2012) 

Still Hidden report cover image

This report provides policy makers and practitioners with an overview of the literature that connects child sexual exploitation and going missing. Click here or on the report title above to download the full report. (Sharp, N. 2012).




Learning from Callers to Runaway Helpline and Message Home (2011)

Learning from Callers to Runaway Helpline and Message Home report cover image

Missing People, supported by the Oak Foundation, conducted a two-year study of the charity's 24/7, free, confidential Runaway Helpline and Message Home services. Click here or on the report title above to download the full report. (Holmes, L. 2011).




Reconnect Network Westminster Pilot Evaluation (2011)

Safeguarding and Reconnecting report cover image

In 2010, the Department of Health funded the pilot of an information-sharing protocol in the London Borough of Westminster. This report outlines the evaluation of this pilot and recommendations for future development. Click here or on the report title above to download the summary report. To download the full evaluation report, please click here. (Holmes, L. and Diamond, F. 2011).




Vulnerable Children on the run: A European Challenge (2011)

Vulnerable Children on the Run report cover image

In 2010, Missing People’s former Chief Executive, Martin Houghton-Brown, was invited to become special Rapporteur for Runaway Children to the Council of Europe. As part of this role, Martin conducted a research project examining how member states respond to missing children. Click here or on the report title above to download the full report. (Houghton-Brown, M. 2011).



Lost from View: A study of missing persons in the UK (2003)

Lost from View report cover image

Lost from View, a publication by the University of York, presents findings from the most extensive study of missing persons yet undertaken in the UK. It provides important new information on the motivations and circumstances of both missing adults and children, and is the first study to draw directly on the  views and experiences of missing adults themselves. Click here or on the report title above to download the full report. To download the summary report, please click here. (Biehal, N., Mitchell, F. and Wade, J. 2003).




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