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4.4.2 Brighton and Hove Runaway and Missing from Home Practice Guidelines


  1. Introduction
  2. Scope
  3. What to do before Confirming that a Child / Young Person is Missing from Home
  4. Agreed Procedure when a Child goes Missing
  5. Strengthening Families Assessments
  6. Conducting 'Safe and Well Checks' when Children and Young People are Found
  7. Support to Families whilst their Child is Missing from Home and Follow up Support
  8. Responses to Repeat Missing Episodes from Home
  9. Links with Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy
  10. The 16 and 17 Year Olds – Including Those in Unstable Accommodation

    Appendix 1: Procedure for When a Child / Young Person is Missing from Home or Care Flowchart

    Appendix 2: Pan Sussex MACSE Form

1. Introduction

Children who go missing from home regularly may face a range of significant risks. This repeat runaway behaviour may indicate problematic or abusive relationships with parents / carers and/or links with associates who encourage missing behaviour. There is the risk of family breakdown, coming into care at a point where the young person has insufficient investment in doing so. There is the risk of being drawn into child sexual exploitation, offending and substance misuse. School attendance may suffer. The significance to agencies of those young people known to be exposed to a range of such risks should be great and hence the Statutory Guidance urges Local Authorities to develop risk grading tools for managing missing children.

2. Scope

The missing from home section of the policy draws from the definitions of missing behaviour set out in the over-arching missing policy.

The missing from home section of this policy relates to children and young people who reside full time with their parents or with relatives and who are not in the care of the local authority and who are absent or missing from home without agreement.

The 2014 Statutory Guidance requires Local Authorities to have a means of assessing and if necessary re-assessing the risks young people may be facing whilst absent and missing.

Brighton and Hove has adopted the Sussex Police Missing Children Reporting Procedure which includes guidance on assessing risk.

3. What to do before Confirming that a Child / Young Person is Missing from Home

When working with young people who go missing from home workers should be familiar with police requirements that parents make their own initial basic enquiries before police are contacted:

  • Fully search the accommodation and surrounding area / vehicles;
  • Check the home for any important leads (e.g. mobile phones, diaries, letters, notes explaining absence, email and website activity etc.), which may inform / assist the investigation to recover the child;
  • Spoken with other children in the family or who live in the home to obtain relevant information about the missing child;
  • Made all appropriate enquiries regards the whereabouts of the child including trying to contact the child themselves, friends, family, associates, appropriate locations, local hospitals and the local police custody office.

Having done this then the police should be informed if the whereabouts and safety of the child / young person cannot be confirmed. Police will require particular information from parents:

  • Description of the child including their clothing;
  • Details of where the child was last seen and with whom;
  • Recent photograph;
  • Relevant addresses, known associates and addresses frequented;
  • Previous history of absenteeism and circumstances of where found;
  • Circumstances under which the child is absent;
  • Any factors that increase the risk to the child.

4. Agreed Procedure when a Child goes Missing

Please see:

5. Strengthening Families Assessments

Triggers for undertaking a Strengthening Families Assessment

If a child / young person has 3 missing episodes, a Strengthening Families Assessment must be undertaken. All cases will be discussed at the weekly Missing Meeting and this meeting will recommend whether a Strengthening Families Assessment should be undertaken in other cases.

Information exchange regarding missing from education

All Strengthening Families Assessments, re-assessments and section 47s which address young people going missing from home MUST record information on whether the young person is also viewed as missing from education.

6. Conducting 'Safe and Well Checks' when Children and Young People are Found

(See also Brighton and Hove Policy on Missing Children, Arrangements for Return Interviews and Who Offers Them).

Safe and Well checks are an essential initial response for first point of contact agencies once young people are located. They are carried out by, police officers. This is in order to ensure that a young person’s immediate care needs are met, whether for food, medical attention, someone to talk to, to disclose to or to have adults who can help them feel safe from any immediate risks.

This may lead to other forms of help being provided, (e.g. medical appointment), non-uniformed police officer being called to talk to the young person.

Safe and Well checks do not replace Return Home Interviews. Please see guidance on One Space for details of Return Home Interviews in Brighton and Hove.

7. Support to Families whilst their Child is Missing from Home and Follow up Support

For young people missing from home and not allocated to a social worker, the primary contact for parents will be Sussex Police.

For young people who have a social worker, the Police will continue to be the main point of contact for repeat missing episodes. The role of the social worker is to identify services the child and the family. The social worker will also identify links with persons who are influencing the missing episodes. They will work with others to ensure that responses are co-ordinated. This may include the police in order to seek evidence for Harbouring Warnings to adults. As with young people in care it is not solely the police role to locate missing young people and social workers can play a role in contacting known associates during a missing episode.

In some families there may be particular relatives who young people are more prepared to listen to. In those circumstances they should be encouraged to contact the young person directly to mediate a return home.

If the young person is open to the Youth Offending Service, the social worker must keep YOS staff informed.

8. Responses to Repeat Missing Episodes from Home

Following Strengthening Families Assessment if missing incidents continue this is likely to meet the threshold for a child in need plan at a minimum. The risk must be kept under review and responded to. Depending on levels of risk a CP plan may be considered.

9. Links with Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy

(See Sexual Exploitation Procedure).

There is an evidential link between missing behaviours and the risk of CSE. The Red Op Kite Multi-Agency CSE Group (MACSE) meets monthly to review the risk management plan for those children and young people identified at highest risk (red) of CSE within Brighton and Hove. Referrals into the MACSE monthly meeting are via the Pan Sussex SERAF (sexual exploitation risk assessment framework). (See Appendix 2: Pan Sussex MACSE Form).

(See also Pan Sussex Child Protection and Safeguarding Procedures Manual, Sexual Exploitation Procedure).

10. The 16 and 17 Year Olds – Including Those in Unstable Accommodation

The 2014 Statutory Guidance reminds Local Authorities not to overlook the needs of 16 and 17 year olds who may be as at the same or more risk as under 16’s when regularly missing. Their legal ability to consent to sexual activity for example should not disguise their vulnerability to exploitation, particularly in combination with alcohol or drugs. Some 16 and 17 year olds may have experienced family breakdown and be sofa surfing or living in temporary or supported accommodation. They are unlikely to have anyone to ensure they are staying somewhere safe each night and keeping themselves safe.

See Use of 'Unsuitable Accommodation' for Young People aged 16 – 21 yrs Procedure.

16 and 17 year olds should be considered in the same way as other children and the risks assessed by the police on a case by case basis.


Click here to view Appendix 1: Procedure for When a Child / Young Person is Missing from Home or Care Flowchart.

Click here to view, Appendix 2: Pan Sussex MACSE Form.