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Research about missing

At Missing People, we conduct research into missing and related issues. This page contains our recent research publications and briefings. If you would like to learn more about the research being done by Missing People, or are interested in being involved in research or policy work, please e-mail policyandresearch@missingpeople.org.uk 

Research about missing (adults)

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. 

* 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 

Ann Coffey MP, as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults led the ‘Inquiry into safeguarding missing adults who have mental health issues’. 

As co-secretariat to the APPG, Missing People carried out consultation with people who have previously been missing, their families and professionals who work with them; analysed responses to a call for evidence sent to police forces and other relevant agencies; and supported parliamentary roundtable meetings attended by experts from a variety of fields.

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. 

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 improving support for vulnerable people.  

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. (Biehal, N., Mitchell, F. and Wade, J. 2003).

Research about missing (children and young people)

“Don’t make me feel guilty or punish me, going missing might be how I cope when I can’t ask for help”.

This report gives an overview of conversations with looked after children about their experiences of going missing while being in care; and what they think should happen when a looked after child is not where they are supposed to be, and when they are reported missing.

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. 

This research explores the value of Return Home Interviews (RHIs) for children who have been missing. Based on analysis of interviews addressing nearly 600 missing episodes 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.

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. 

* 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

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 children and young people who have been trafficked, and a large-scale survey of professionals across the UK. 

*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. 

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.

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. 

This report provides policy makers and practitioners with an overview of the literature that connects child sexual exploitation and going missing.

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. (Biehal, N., Mitchell, F. and Wade, J. 2003).

Research about missing (families)

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. 

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. 

A summary of work done to improve the support available to the family members of missing people, continuing the work of the ground-breaking Living in Limbo research.  

In 2011 Senior Services Manager, Helen Morell (now Alves) travelled to Australia on a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) Fellowship to explore the provision of emotional support to families of missing people. This report describes Helen’s trip and the lessons she learned.

Living in Limbo provides an account of the devastating impact that going missing can have on family members left behind, including emotional, social, financial, legal and practical difficulties. The charity has launched a campaign to improve the rights of family members of missing people, as a direct result of the findings of the Living in Limbo research. 

Why get involved in our research work

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