The Ethnicity of Missing People report – One year on

A year ago we worked with ListenUp Research to publish new data showing the disproportionate amount of people from Black communities who go missing, and a range of disparities in the experiences of, and response to Black and Asian missing people.  

The findings raised significant concerns: the data showed that people from Black and Asian communities were missing for longer, less likely to be found by the police, and less likely to be recorded as being at risk, than White people. The statistics were particularly stark for Black children and adults.  

The statistics made national headlines when they were first published, with coverage on Good Morning Britain, and articles in a range of outlets including the Guardian, the Independent, and ITV News. The headlines acknowledged the ‘concerning race disparities’ and the need for these to urgently be addressed.  

How much has changed since we published the report? 

We have seen some success on the report’s recommendations (although it’s likely any changes are not solely due to the report, but brought about by a range of factors):  

  • The Department for Education has begun publishing ethnicity data in their statistics about Looked After Children, allowing for better scrutiny of any disparities in the experiences or safeguarding of children from ethnic minorities. 
  • Some police forces have improved how they record ethnicity in missing person incidents, and the National Crime Agency’s UK Missing Person Unit are planning to publish more detailed data on ethnicity. 
  • A handful of police forces have carried out their own deep-dive reviews to explore disparities in their area and started planning how to address them and improve responses. 

These are important steps in monitoring the issue and will allow for more accountability. However, we know simply improving data collection is not enough. We need tangible actions to ensure change and create a more equitable response for all missing children and adults. 

Lived experiences informing change 

The Police Race Action Plan (PRAP) is a vital tool for generating this change. For the first time in a national police document, the PRAP acknowledged the need for police to improve their response to missing Black people as a key area of focus. In September last year the team behind the Plan asked Missing Black People and Missing People to facilitate a learning event for police colleagues to hear directly from the families of missing people from Black communities, including hearing about some of their experiences of discrimination: 

“But actually when we were on the ground looking for her one night at [the train] station and I went up to British Transport Police. I showed them a picture of my sister and said that we are looking for a missing person. And the police officer, a White woman, just looked at the picture. Glanced at it. And said I am sorry we are looking for another girl. And the other girl is a high-risk missing person. I said if you had bothered to read the flyer my sister is reported officially missing. Can’t you look for two people at once? It turns out the other girl they were looking for was obviously white. It was interesting how quickly they dismissed me.” 

“They diminished me I found later because of my accent and because of my colour.” 

“Over time it was apparent that there was not much interest in those of colour going missing. And why do I say that? My son’s friend who was the humblest child on the planet had gone missing. His parents reported him missing. I reported him missing because I knew he was in touch with my son. When he did appear again, in the community, again no one was interested. He was murdered in cold blood and affected by child criminal exploitation as well. He wasn’t searched for locally neither.” 

“It was not taken seriously at the beginning… The brother and the friend both come from other countries. English is not their first language. They would not take it seriously… Because they are not fully practicing the way of speaking to the police. They are not able to push in the right ways for the police to take action. It is sad when we have to learn a certain language to push people.” 

“What has colour got to do with it? This is my question. It has to stop.” 

These stories of people’s lived experience have been the primary catalyst for change. Following that learning event the PRAP team have scheduled four workshops, to take place throughout 2024, for all police forces. Each workshop will consider an area of disparity or discrimination, and most vitally, will focus on what action can be taken to ensure improvements. The findings will be used to develop pilot projects and national recommendations for all forces to adopt. 

New research  

While this work within the police progresses, we still know much more needs to be understood about Black people’s experiences of missing, and importantly within that: how to better prevent the disproportionate number of people from Black communities going missing, and how to provide better support if someone does go. In light of this we are working with ListenUp on new research into the experiences of Black missing children. 

This research will explore any unique drivers that cause Black children to go missing, what the response from professionals and the media looks like for them, and what could improve things in the future. 

Share your experiences or views 

We want to hear from Black young people who have been missing; from their parents and carers; and from the professionals who work with these young people. 

We have two surveys: 

If you want to talk to us in more detail about the research, or take part in an interview please email 

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