Your questions answered on how Missing People work with the police
About Missing People
Data and Confidentiality
Working in partnership
About Missing People
We are a non-judgemental, highly skilled team of staff and volunteers working around the clock for everyone who needs us: missing children, adults, their families and our partner organisations.
We provide free 24-hour confidential support, help and advice by phone, email, text and online, including the opportunity to reconnect. We also coordinate a UK-wide network of people, businesses and media to join the search for the estimated 250,000 people who go missing each year.
Professionals, families of missing people and missing people themselves can contact us using the details below:
Call: 116 000
Text: 116 000
As a national independent charity we are regulated by the Charity Commission and our registered charity number is 1020419. The charity’s services are accredited by The Helplines Association which defines best practice in helpline work and our 116 000 European hotline number was awarded by Ofcom, the independent communications regulator.
Missing People is an independent charity funded by donations. The charity’s income is sourced from individual donations, partnerships, trusts and some government funding, including from the Home Office and Department for Education. We also receive funding from the European Union.
The charity recognises that we are currently unable to meet demand for our services on an income of £2.4 million per annum and has agreed a bold ambition to grow to £3million.
We run a 24-hour service 365 days a year. There are occasionally times when we are forced to close for short periods such as in the case of staff sickness. This is extremely rare and we try everything we can to prevent this from happening. If we are closed, callers will hear a message or receive an auto-reply which tells them when we will be open again and gives phone numbers of other organisations that can be contacted, such as Childline and Samaritans.
We can help with publicity and family support for all missing persons investigations regardless of risk assessment. As set out in the cross-Government Strategy for Missing Children and Adults, you should ensure that all families of missing people are automatically signposted to support services such as ours. We would ask you to tell the family about us and encourage them to contact us, whatever the circumstances of the case.
A full description and photograph of the missing person, as well as the circumstances of their disappearance, would be needed. We also require details for the police contacts running each case and should be told whether there is a family we can offer support to. We will then need to maintain close contact as the investigation progresses to know where to send sightings and information from the public.
We will discuss with you what publicity is relevant and will make sure all publicity is cancelled as soon as you inform us that the person has been found or returned, or if circumastances change.
Thankfully this is a rare occurrence, and the short answer is that we listen to the guidance of our police colleagues in this situation.
Best practice, according to ACPO guidance 2010, says that family consent should be obtained before publicity is carried out. We will expect police to have obtained this consent prior to our publicity campaign becoming ‘live’.
If police override a family’s decision not to consent to publicity, in keeping with ACPO guidance, we will usually act on the request of police. We would only challenge this if we felt strongly that the decision to override the family was inappropriate or unreasonable.
We will only search for a person where the primary reason for looking for them is their welfare.
Therefore, if the missing person also has an outstanding arrest warrant, we will ask police to decide whether their concern for the person's welfare outweighs their desire to apprehend the person for a crime. Where the former is true, we will decide on a case-by-case basis whether we can help police look for the missing person.
No. We will simply record the information and send it to you.
It would be inappropriate for us to grade the relevance of sightings since we do not know all the details of the investigation.
Data and confidentiality
Missing People has a clear data protection policy and guidelines for all staff and volunteers and provides training to ensure good practice across the organisation. You may see it if you wish.
Missing People keeps records of some of its contacts with service users, in order to provide the best service possible and to manage and monitor its service.
We make sure that the information we hold is as accurate as possible. We do not hold more information than we need, and we do not hold it longer than we need to.
Our email is secure (CJSM) and the referrals section of our website is (https) which is also secure.
We ask them for their full name and DOB before speaking with their nominated family member.
We provide confidential support, help and advice, including the opportunity to reconnect, to people who contact us when they are missing. We work closely with the caller to explore the best options for them. For example, we help people who are missing to contact the police, with their agreement.
We only disclose information about a missing person without their agreement where we consider they are at serious risk of harm. This is in line with our safeguarding policy.
In most situations, we would always seek to inform the person involved before we disclose information, and we will always give a reason for our disclosure.
In our experience, some of our callers are individuals who have deliberately chosen not to speak to police/a social worker/family. This is sometimes due to fear or a misconception of what will happen next (e.g. Forced to go back, arrested for the ‘offence’ of going missing, decisions taken out of their control). In our experience, these anxieties are what keep vulnerable missing people hidden and, thus, in unsafe situations.
By giving the caller the space to discuss their options confidentially, we usually find that they are better able to unpick their situation and be helped to make a choice which may reconnect them with a place of safety.
It is the skill and experience of our call takers which means that in many situations we are able to take action which safeguards the caller, with their consent, leaving our relationship intact should they ever need us again.
There are naturally times when we are unable to establish consent. In this case, if we have enough information to know the location of the individual and we are in possession of information which – were we not to share it – may lead to the person coming to harm, we will breach that caller’s confidentiality and contact either the police or social services.
TextSafe® is a way of us reaching out and proactively offering our help to missing people when they are most vulnerable. When they receive the message, they instantly know how to call, text and email us and that we are free and confidential. Some people will choose to act on this and others will ignore it, a little like if they had seen a poster about us or noticed the information about us in a phone box.
If they choose to get in touch – via any means – we will not know who they are or how they heard about our organisation. It does not matter! They will be provided with the same service we give everyone who contacts us (see the question on confidentiality for how we manage this).
An easy way to think of TextSafe® is as a means of offering that person a safeguarding opportunity by telling them about Missing People, rather than as a means for you (the police) to contact the missing person.
You should feel confident that, if the missing person contacts us after receiving a TextSafe®, we will support them to explore their options and safely reconnect (as explained above).
There are times when you may wish to tell us things which need to be kept confidential from the family in the interest of the investigation. If you feel you need to share this information with us it is important that you clearly state that it is confidential information so that we can make a record of this. When deciding what information to share, ask yourself the following questions;
•will this help Missing People to support the family emotionally?
•will this assist them in carrying out publicity for this individual?
•will this assist them in making a safeguarding decision if the missing person makes contact with them?
•will this assist them with managing a likely increase in calls? (e.g. Some significant new information has come to light and is about to break in the media)
Working in partnership
We support families and assist in the search for missing people from every police force in the UK, without discrimination. Naturally, some forces have got to know us better over the years and refer to us more regularly.
Missing People is an independent charity funded by donations. We work in collaboration with a range of partners across the UK, including local police forces, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS). We can offer a range of services to support police missing person investigations.
The UK Missing Persons Bureau is the national centre for the exchange of information and the coordination of missing persons enquiries and unidentified body cases. Their purpose is to find those who are missing and to safeguard vulnerable people both nationally and internationally. The Bureau is part of the National Crime Agency and they provide tactical support to police investigations utilising their national missing and unidentified person’s database. They can also provide details of other experts, such as national search advisers, CATCHEM (National Suspicious Misper Adviser) and other specialists. More information on the Bureau is available on their website at:
CEOP (the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) has responsibility for national missing children's services. They also host the Missing Kids website where missing children appeals are publicised. When you refer a missing child to us for publicity they will automatically appear on both our website and the Missing Kids website and 116 000 will be the number the public are encouraged to call with sightings and information.
All three organisations work closely together and Missing People has strategic agreements in place with both CEOP and the UK Missing Persons Bureau.
We would ask you to still tell the family about us even when a FLO is working with the family, so that they can choose if they want to contact us, as we can provide independent emotional and practical support.
Yes, but we will require you to pass this request via the UK Missing Persons Bureau who are the national agency responsible for this. Where resources permit, we will gladly assist with cross-matching.
We take calls, texts and emails from victims of HBV and forced marriage who are often relieved to have a confidential space in which to explore their options.
Our data protection and confidentiality policies and procedures mean that an abuser should not be able to access a victim via our services.