New report: Experiences of reporting a child or adult missing to the police

What?

Missing People recently surveyed professionals and a small number of families about their experiences when they reported someone as missing to the police.

When a person goes missing their loved ones or the professionals responsible for their care should report them as missing to the police. An investigation can then be carried out to ensure their safe return. However, there is increasing understanding of the negative impacts that inappropriately reporting someone as missing can have.

In some cases, people may be reported missing as part of ‘company policy’ in a care or healthcare setting, or as a disciplinary response rather than because of genuine concerns about their safety. This can have a negative impact on the person’s well-being. It can also negatively impact their relationships with professionals responsible for their care and the police.

However, frustration within police forces at this ‘over-reporting’ can risk leading to refusals to accept legitimate missing reports, or encouraging ‘under-reporting’. This has very significant consequences. It can mean people who are vulnerable and at risk of harm are unlooked for and left at risk.

We must find a way to walk the fine line between over and under-reporting. We need to ensure that every incident is reported and actioned when a child or adult is at risk. While also focusing much more on prevention and appropriate non-police interventions for people at risk of going missing.

This survey and subsequent report aim to understand what is happening nationally: whether there are often disagreements about roles and responsibilities and whether people are satisfied with the police response.

Key findings

Findings from the survey show that the majority have had a positive experience when reporting someone as missing to the police. However, there are still improvements that can be made:

  • When taking a missing report, the police should listen to the concerns of the reporting person.
  • Local partnerships should focus on building multi-agency working to address issues of inappropriate reporting or refusals of reports.
  • Local partnerships should monitor perceived inappropriate reporting, and refusals of reports, to help both the police and the people making the reports to address the issue constructively.
  • Respect is vital in all communications.

Download the full report

Read the report