Return Home Interviews

Missing People is currently commissioned to conduct return home interviews with children and young people across Surrey, Hertfordshire, Brighton and Hove, East and West Sussex.

A return home interview provides a child or young person with a confidential space to talk about their missing episode. The space allows them to talk about anything which may be worrying them or anything they feel they cannot tell anyone else. A child or young person may feel as though they need support but  are not sure where to go to get help , Missing People is there to listen, to be a helping hand and provide a voice for children and young people to help get them the support they need.

The Department for Education defines return interviews as ‘in-depth discussions’ and their purpose is to ‘identify and deal with any harm the child has suffered… understand and try to address the reasons why the child or young person ran away, help the child feel safe and understand that they have options to prevent repeat instances of them running away [and] provide them with information on how to stay safe if they run away again, including helpline numbers’ (DfE, 2014:15).

Missing People Return Home Interview Service

Missing People works in partnership with police and local authorities to provide return home interview services to children who have been missing from home or care. We currently provide return home interview services in Surrey, Hertfordshire, Brighton and Hove, East and West Sussex.

The charity provides missing children, on their return, the opportunity to talk about what happened before, during and after they were missing. By taking a child-led approach and enabling the child to feel safe to talk to us we are able to establish the push/pull factors of why the child ran away. We use our experience to employ and train non-judgemental, highly skilled people who are able to gain trust and support children and young people to open up and accept help.

The helpline is still available 24 hours a day by calling or texting 116 000.

How our return home interview services work

Our return home interview service works to ensure we meet the needs of our partners. Our teams make contact with children who have returned from being missing within 24 hours of the referral and aim to provide a return home interview within 72 hours, if that fits with the needs of the child.

We use the time to provide the child a chance to talk about what may have caused them to go missing or run away, what happened while they were missing and how they are feeling now they have returned. It’s a chance for them to share anything that may be troubling, or upsetting them, any harm they may have suffered. It’s chance for us to help identify any issues and help them to get support. This is a voluntary service, however if the return home interview is declined we can still offer ways in which the child or family member or carer can reconnect with the charity for free via our 24/7 helpline. 

Who we provide services to

At present our local services are provided to children and young people only, in line with the requirements of our commissioners. However, we are currently scoping a similar model for adults who return from being missing. We are proactively looking for a pilot site to trial adult Return Home Interviews, so do let us know if your force and/or local partners would like to be a part of this trial by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Do young people have to talk to us?

No, it is completely voluntary. Even if a young person or their parent or carer declines a return home interview, we can still provide 24/7, free, confidential support through the Runaway Helpline by calling or texting 116 000.

How does your service operate locally e.g. referral processes into other services, participation in strategy meetings etc?

A vital part of our role is to understand the approach of local authorities and police and then translate these in to effective working relationships around missing children. We ensure that appropriate information sharing occurs regarding individual children as well as information about trends and patterns. This is an agreed process in each locality and takes place at regular multi-agency missing and CSE meetings in line with local safeguarding procedures. Furthermore, at a strategic level, those with oversight of our services have contact with the relevant members in senior leadership teams with who contractual requirements are monitored and assessed.

We build relationships with a network of partners in each local service to ensure a smooth referral process for professionals and the children and families we meet.