SUPPORT: To provide the best possible support to both missing people and their families

Return Discussions

Going missing may be the first indication that there are problems or vulnerabilities for a person. A Return Discussion is an opportunity to support the individual who has gone missing and identify any underlying causes, including any ongoing risk of harm and an opportunity to refer the individual to appropriate support services. In Scotland, 84% of Return Discussions are completed by police (Police Scotland Missing Persons Annual Report 2018-2019). However, the Framework and good practice encourages the returned person to be given a choice as to who they would like to complete their Return Discussion.

Read our Return Discussion Tips

Missing People’s Free Core Services for Scotland

To watch a 7 minute briefing on Missing People’s core services click below.

For over 25 years, the charity Missing People have been a lifeline for anyone affected by missing. Whether someone is thinking of leaving home, has already left, or has a loved one who is missing, we will support them. To find out more about us, have a look at our webpage, here.

We are here to ensure that anyone who is missing can find a safe way to reconnect with a loved one, to get a message home, or, to get to a place of safety, and that loved ones are supported whilst they live with not knowing what has happened to someone they love.

Our free support services are available for the people you work with in Scotland.


Our free helpline 116 000 is available from 9am – 11pm, 7 days a week for people affected by missing. This could either be someone who is missing and wants to talk, someone who is thinking of going missing and wants to talk through their options, or someone who has a missing loved one. They can remain anonymous and we do not need to know where they are.

Calls, texts and emails are completely confidential and the Helpline Team can provide emotional support, discuss options and provide practice advice.

The helpline can be contacted by:

Phone: 116000 Text: 116000 or Email:

121 Chat

This is available from 2.30pm – 9.30 pm, 7 days a week. Via Chats, the team provide emotional support, explore options, and provide practical advice. Communication is via online messaging, in a similar format to WhatsApp. All Chats are confidential.

Runaway Helpline

A child or young person can start a conversation by going to our Runaway Helpline Website specifically for young Scots. This is a young person friendly place to access free information at:

For Police: TextSafe®

A TextSafe is sent to a missing person to let them know that we’re here if they want to talk to someone. This is when the police investigating their disappearance know the missing person’s phone number, and request that a TextSafe is sent. The text is sent via our system, so the missing person doesn’t become nervous and think the police are contacting them. If the person replies to the text, the reply comes straight back to us, so it remains confidential. So the police may request the TextSafe, but they will not see any subsequent replies.

For Police: Publicity & Safeguarding Briefing Network

Missing People are able to arrange a variety of publicity appeals including through social media, print media, poster distribution and digital billboards.

We know that in some cases however, public facing publicity is not appropriate as it may increase vulnerability or have a negative impact on someone’s wellbeing while away or when they return. In these cases police officers can request the use of our Safeguarding Briefing Network.

This network is made up of safeguarding and community safety organisations (for example soup kitchens, homelessness services, security guards, etc.) who are sent missing person briefings for staff viewing only. These are not put on public display so can allow professionals to keep an eye out for a missing person without the risks of a public appeal. Our team can create a tailored publicity plan depending on the information known about a missing person and what will best keep them safe.

Family Support

As well as our Helpline and 121 Chat services, we also offer longer-term support to families with a missing loved one. This involves us assigning a member of the Helpline Team to the family, as their ‘Family Support Worker’. This support is more proactive – we contact the family to check in with them and offer support, instead of the family always having to contact us. This type of support is offered over the phone.

Telephone Counselling

Missing People has developed a unique, bespoke telephone counselling service to provide emotional support to people who are living with the experience of someone going missing, or have been missing themselves. This is a free and confidential service that offers individuals a safe place to talk about their needs and any of the ways the trauma of missing has impacted them. We are also able to offer video sessions via Skype for those that want to see and be seen by their counsellor.

Counselling is for young people (aged 11+) or an adult who is living with the ongoing uncertainty, or ambiguous loss of someone they care about being missing, this could be family, friends or loved ones.

We know that the story is not over when someone returns from being missing and we can provide counselling to individuals who have been missing.

Support Services Resources

Materials to signpost people to our Helpline available to download below.

Young People Poster


Adults Poster

Next objective



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.