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A lifeline when someone disappears

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Our response to ‘Once Missing Never Forgotten?’ – a report from Missing Children Europe and the University of Portsmouth 

From Karen Robinson, Director of Partnerships and Development at Missing People:

"All missing people are vulnerable, and being missing often makes them more so. If a publicity appeal is launched when someone disappears, it is important to balance the missing person’s ‘right to be forgotten’ with the risk that not taking action could pose to their immediate safety. Today’s report calls for better protection for children who have been missing, and their families. We’re fully committed to supporting this.

As well as a right to be forgotten, we believe all missing people have a right to be cared about when they are missing too. We are lucky to live in a society that wants to join the search when someone is missing. We encourage this community spirit and provide safe ways for communities to come together to appeal for someone's loved one. We must remember that running away is sometimes a necessary response to abuse, exploitation or neglect rather than a sign of bad behaviour. It's vital that when a child flees abuse they know where to turn for help, and publicity appeals do just that; they tell the child how to get help.

At Missing People, our appeals focus more on reaching out to the missing person to let them know we are here for them, than they do on asking the public to help us search for someone. By sharing them, people enable us to reach further and show the missing person that we care, and that our free, confidential, 24/7 helpline is here.  We know this approach works and we are often contacted through our helpline by missing children and adults who have seen their appeal and need help getting home or to a place of safety. 

We are pleased to see references throughout the report to our approach to publicity appeals as best practice. Every one of the appeals for missing people we issue is published in close partnership with the police and the missing person’s next of kin. We ensure that our appeals come from verifiable sources so they are effective and the missing person’s immediate and ongoing safety and privacy is prioritised.

Everyone involved in the search for a missing person has a role to play in making sure that they can move on with their lives when they return. Although many police forces have responsible processes in place for removing their appeals for a missing person after they have been found, both the police and the media could commit to doing more. We encourage all agencies who appeal for missing people to adopt a balanced and considered approach to publishing and sharing appeals for missing children."

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