Supporting unaccompanied children who arrive in the UK and are at risk of going missing: Good practice guidance

Download the Guidance

Unaccompanied children are some of those most at risk of going missing, and of staying missing long-term. These children will often already be vulnerable upon their arrival due to whatever drove them to leave their home country, and due to trauma they will likely have experienced on the journey. Going missing puts them at even greater risk as they may face serious harms, like trafficking and exploitation, and be hidden from help and support.

It is vital all professionals who have contact with unaccompanied children play a part in preventing them from going missing, and in safeguarding those who do go.

Missing People, in partnership with The Children’s Society, have developed this good practice guidance to help professionals better support these young people.

The guidance includes:

  • Why unaccompanied children go missing
  • What professionals can do to prevent unaccompanied children from going missing, including considering:
    • Placement suitability and security
    • Understanding the child and helping them to stay safe and thrive
    • Disrupting trafficking and exploitation
    • Support with asylum processes and preparation for transition into adulthood
    • Returning from missing (and preventing further incidents)
  • How professionals can work with children to prepare them to stay safer if they do go missing, including:
    • Preparing for an effective missing investigation
    • Preparing with the child to help them stay safe
  • What can help the investigation if an unaccompanied child does go missing

The good practice in the guidance was collected through interviews and focus groups with professionals from a range of different agencies working with unaccompanied children across the county. Their collective expertise has been collated into advice for practitioners, as well as case studies and examples of effective practice and services.

The guidance is likely to be useful to professionals from local authorities, police, foster and residential care, education, third sector, and a range of other agencies.

The introduction and enactment of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 is likely to increase the risk of some unaccompanied children going missing. It is likely that this guidance will be more valuable than ever to ensure effective prevention and support is put in place in all areas across the UK.

Unaccompanied children face increased risks of going missing, but it should never be considered inevitable. Child-centred practice, across all relevant agencies, can help to ensure young people are made safer and given the opportunity to thrive.

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