Systems Change: Our new programme to tackle repeat missing and harm

Is this a familiar pattern in your local area?

We are seeking police forces and multi-agency partners from local authorities, education, and the NHS in local areas to work with us to redesign local responses to missing to be collaborative, and considerate of the whole-system, promoting collective responsibility for prevention and support that is person centred, timely, and cross-organisational.

Missing People is launching a fresh approach to tackle local challenges around repeat missing and harm. We know that repeat missing incidents for adults account for more than 50% of all reports received by police forces in the UK, and 75% of reports for children and young people. Our research suggests that the relationship between missing and harm is significant:

  • 3 in 4 adults who have been missing experienced harm while away (49 of 64)
  • 40% of returned missing adults disclosed trying to take their own life (26 of 63)
  • 60% disclosed experiencing some other form of harm, including being threatened, sexually assaulted or experiencing physical violence while away
  • In cases where someone died while missing, the most common cause was confirmed or suspected suicide.


The risk of serious harm is defined as:

‘A risk which is life threatening and/or traumatic, and from which recovery, whether physical or psychological, can be expected to be difficult or impossible.’

– Home Office 2002 and OASys 2006

We will address the following 3 professional mental models through our work:

1) That people who go missing are only seen as needing support during and immediately after the missing episode, failing to recognise missing as a ‘whole journey,’ including the underlying factors that cause someone to go missing.

2) Responding to people who go missing is largely seen as the local police force’s responsibility, with limited involvement from the local authority and additional sectors, including the NHS, Education, and the third sector.

3) Adults who go missing are not seen as needing or requiring support following a missing episode, in contrast to the response that children receive.

We have developed a theory of change for this work, available here.

If you would like to work with us to redesign local responses to missing and promote collective responsibility for the prevention of and support around missing,  please contact for more information.

Hydra Training

As part of our Systems Change work, we are also designing Hydra training for police, local authorities, the NHS and Education to improve local responses to missing and prevention work. Hydra training is immersive and scenario-based, in-person, and designed around real-life and live missing cases. Our simulation exercises will be an interactive style of training, ideal for professionals who work with missing persons.

We would love for you to be the first local area we deliver this to. Please contact for more information.

Systems Change Consultation

If you’re dealing with issues related to repeat missing in your local area, we can help. Our team of Systems Change consultants specialise in addressing national and local missing persons challenges for various police forces and local authorities across the UK. To learn more and book a free consultation, please send an email to

Sign up to be a Digital Search Hero

We have launched a regular email so that you can be aware of new missing person appeals and share them far and wide! We are also calling on all Heroes to be the eyes and ears for Missing People on the ground. Your sighting of a missing person could make a difference in a crucial time.