Every year there are over 100,000 incidents of adults going missing in the UK. Research suggests that between 60-80% of these missing adults will have a mental health issue and up to 18% are reported missing from hospitals. It is not known exactly how many are reported missing from other care settings.
In July 2018 the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults carried out an Inquiry into safeguarding missing adults who have mental health issues. Recommendations from the subsequent report included the need for better multi-agency working, with a significant role for the health and social care sectors in the response to missing adults. The report identified that this multi-agency approach could improve all stages of a missing investigation: risk assessments, response at the point of return, ongoing support and prevention.
The APPG commissioned a Task and Finish Group, dedicated to developing a national framework outlining good practice that can be adopted in local areas for the multi-agency response. This Task and Finish Group included members from NHS England, Public Health England, the Care Quality Commission, the College of Policing, the UK Missing Persons Unit, National Police Chiefs Council, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Local Government Association and the National Network for Safeguarding Adults Board Chairs, amongst others.
There is already excellent work happening in many areas across the country which this framework does not intend to change. However, we are hoping that this guidance will introduce more consistency, ensuring that all relevant partners are playing their role to ensure that missing adults go missing less often, are safer if they do go, and receive support upon their return.
The framework aims to provide a good practice approach for multi-agency responsibilities at a local level with structures for monitoring the response and addressing any emerging or persistent issues that are contributing to people going missing or increased harm when they do.
We hope that leaders in all relevant agencies will review the framework and consider whether the recommended structures and processes are needed in their area, and if so, how they can be adopted.
People go missing because of a myriad of reasons and no one episode is the same. The only common factor across all missing episodes is that people are at increased risk of harm and may need support. We can only do what is right for missing people by working in a truly multi-agency way. We hope that this framework will be one step towards that goal.