Supporting young people as they transition to adulthood

Young people and missing statistics

Going missing can be a warning sign of serious harm in a person’s life. The reasons why people go missing are varied and complicated but can include:

  • mental health issues.
  • self-harm.
  • exploitation.
  • unhappiness or abuse at home.
  • financial issues.

Statistics have indicated that young people are at significant risk of going missing: over half of all missing episodes relate to people aged 12-17 (54.9%). This is followed by those aged 18-39 (26.7% of all missing episodes).

Issues in the response

Despite the high numbers of young people going missing, recent publications have highlighted issues in the response for this group. The Knowledge Briefing ‘Bridging the gap: Transitional Safeguarding and the role of social work with adults’ introduced the concept of transitional safeguarding. The report ‘Transitional Safeguarding and Missing Young People’ found that professionals have identified gaps in how this works for young people who are repeatedly missing.

Our work supporting young people

At Missing People we know there is significant need amongst this age group. Approximately 20% of all contacts to our helpline are from young adults aged 18-25.

Through our SafeCall service, we support young people up to the age of 25. We know that exploitation, and the missing episodes this leads to, don’t stop when a child hits 18. We help to ensure that plans in place for reaching adulthood, and that support won’t disappear whilst still needed.

Despite these services, we are still limited in the support that can be provided for young adults. Often we see those we support reach a cliff-edge from other services who can only help until they’re 18.

What can be done to improve

At Missing People, we support more flexibility in the commissioning and delivery of services to continue help throughout this transition. We believe relationships are key to safeguarding, and to cut those off due to arbitrary timeframes can do significant damage. Young people may need support into adulthood, not to have services withdrawn. Finally, we know that communication and shared aims between services for children and services for adults are vital to provide continuity when supporting a young person.

We will keep supporting young adults through our work and campaign for a more holistic approach to transitional safeguarding for those at risk of missing.

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