The Ethnicity of Missing: Six-month Review

Six months ago Missing People and ListenUp published a report into the ethnicity of missing people. The findings raised significant concerns: the data shows that people from minority ethnic groups were missing for longer, less likely to be found by the police, and less likely to be recorded as being at risk, than white people. The statistics are particularly stark for Black children and adults.

Key findings include:

  • Missing children from Black or Asian communities are less likely to be recorded as being at risk due to their mental health or being at risk of exploitation than White missing children. This suggests that risks may be being under-identified for children from Black and Asian communities due to adultification.
  • Black children were the most likely to be missing for over 48 hours and over 7 days.
  • Black looked after children are over-represented in missing reports: While 7% of looked after children are Black, 10% of all children who are looked after and go missing are Black.

This is a multi-agency issue and the findings relate to a range of agencies including the police, children’s services, education and health, amongst others. The report sets out a number of recommendations including the need for local authorities and police forces to review the picture in their area.

Local Reviews

The report recommends that: All police forces and local authorities should review their own data in order to identify disproportionality and potential discriminatory practice in their area.

  • This should include a review of missing incidents and individuals broken down by ethnicity, and also a review of the ethnicity of missing people broken down by risk levels, outcomes, length of time missing, and who finds the missing person.
  • The review should also involve a deep dive into case records to explore any reasons for disparity in the data. Within the review, a particular focus should be given to risk identification and recording, with senior leaders considering whether any bias, adultification or other discrimination is indicated. In order to maintain objectivity, this should be done alongside external agencies, which could include Missing People and Listen Up.
  • All local authorities and police forces should use their local area findings to develop a publicly accessible, actions-based plan in response to their review and deep dive. Specific actions to counter any disproportionality or discrimination should be included in any published plan.
  • Local partnerships should work together to understand the picture of risk facing individuals or whole communities in their area, and how this may relate to ethnicity, ensuring that there is a common understanding of risk that is consistent across multi-agency systems.

We are asking all areas to complete this deep dive into the local picture in their area. National data can help to identify issues, but it is only at a local level that agencies can really understand where the disparities are emerging for them, and whether there is evidence of bias or discrimination in any decision-making that contributes to those disparities. Most importantly agencies need to understand their local picture so they can identify what action can be taken to ensure equality in response and support provided to those who need it.

New research into the experiences of Black missing children

ListenUp and Missing People are now carrying out further research to explore more than just the data. They are hoping to better understand the experiences of Black missing children, including any unique drivers for them going missing, any risks that the Black community specifically might be facing, and their experience of the response from the police and other professionals. They will be carrying out interviews with previously missing children, but are also collecting evidence through surveys for young people, their parents, and the professionals who work with them.

Please help with this research by completing or sharing the following surveys with anyone who might be interested in contributing.

Survey for Black young people (16-25)

Survey for parents, carers and professionals who have reported a Black child as missing, or worked with Black children who have been reported missing

Police learning event: Sharing the Experiences of Black Missing People and their Families

On 27 September Missing People and Missing Black People are supporting an online event where the police will listen to, and learn from, the experiences of people from Black communities who have previously been reported missing, and from families who have had a loved one go missing. The National Police Race Action Plan has identified the need for police to respond better to missing Black people, and as a first step, they know they need to hear from those with lived experience.

If you would like to share your experience by joining the event, pre-recording a video or voice note, or writing a statement to be shared on the day (this can be done anonymously), please contact or for more information about the event.

Sign up to be a Digital Search Hero

We have launched a regular email so that you can be aware of new missing person appeals and share them far and wide! We are also calling on all Heroes to be the eyes and ears for Missing People on the ground. Your sighting of a missing person could make a difference in a crucial time.