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8.1 Joint Protocol For Children and Young People Missing From Home and Care


  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Bolton Procedures
  4. Missing from Care
  5. Missing from Home
  6. Multi-Agency Response
  7. List of Preventative Services in Bolton
  8. Links to other Policies and Guidance

1. Introduction

We all have a responsibility to safeguard and promote the well-being of children and young people. This is of vital importance when it comes to supporting children and young people who go missing or decide to run away.

Running away can be symptomatic of wider problems in a child or young person's life, and as well as short-term risks, there are also long term implications. This protocol highlights the commitment that all agencies in Bolton have to working together to ensure that young people are kept safe and receive the immediate and ongoing support they need.

2. Definitions

Children and young people up to the age of 18, who have run away from their home or care placement, have been forced to leave, or whose whereabouts is unknown will be considered in this protocol under these categories:

Missing – 'Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests the person may be the subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another'.

Absent – 'A person not at a place where they are expected or required to be'.

The `absent' category should comprise cases in which children/young people are not presently where they are supposed to be but there is no apparent risk and they are not believed to be immediately at risk of harm.

Police will not be sent to cases where children/young people are defined as being 'absent'. Instead the onus will be on care providers to take steps to locate the child/young person, with monitoring by the police and escalation to 'missing' if there is a change to the circumstances that has increased the level of risk. It is expected that all reasonable steps should be taken by care providers to locate the child/young person prior to making a report to the police. Where they remain absent, and the care provider feels that they may be at risk of harm, then a report should be made to the police.

Police will attend to reports of 'missing' children/young people'.

3. Bolton Procedures

Workers and agencies in Bolton follow and comply with the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Partnership policy:

Greater Manchester Safeguarding Children Procedures Manual, Children Missing from Home and Care - A Standardised Approach to Dealing with Missing and Absent Children and Young People Across Greater Manchester

4. Missing from Care

Note: Away from Placement without Authorisation: A Looked After child whose whereabouts are known but who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the police.


Using the 'missing' tab on Protocol, Social Workers should record all missing episodes noting dates and time of the missing episode and the address where the child is found. Further detailed notes including any associated people the child/young person is found with should be recorded in case notes – and the return interview tab should be used.

Return interviews

All missing events should be discussed with the child or young person and any actions to reduce further missing incidents, address issues or the underlying causes identified and recorded. The use of an independent person to undertake a return interview will be considered when a child or young person:

  • Has been missing over 24 hours;
  • Has been missing on three or more occasions in a calendar month;
  • Has engaged (or is believed to have engaged) in criminal activities during their absence;
  • Has been hurt or harmed whilst they have been missing;
  • Has known mental health issues;
  • Is at known risk of sexual exploitation or trafficking;
  • Has contact with persons posing a risk to children;
  • On a case by case basis should there be concerns of additional vulnerability.

5. Missing from Home

All children or young people who go missing from home will be contacted by the RUNA service operated by Urban Outreach and return interviews undertaken, recording where a child was found, any relevant associates and identifying issues and underlying causes. Where required, RUNA will then co-ordinate referrals and a multi-agency action plan using the Common Assessment Framework process.

If the child's case is open to Social Care, RUNA will agree with the Social Worker who the most appropriate person is to undertake the return interview and relevant information will be provided to the Social Worker to action and record on the Protocol system.

6. Multi-Agency Response

The SEAM Group (Sexual Exploitation and Missing), is a sub-group of Bolton Safeguarding Children Board. The Purpose of the group of the multi-agency group is to implement and monitor a multi-agency strategy and co-ordinate action plans for children and young people who are at risk of sexual exploitation and/or go missing from home, from school and from the looked after system. The group meets fortnightly and members are representatives from the following agencies: Greater Manchester Police; Urban Outreach (RUNA); Safeguarding/LAC Nurse; Exit Team; Children's Residential Services; Integrated Working Team; Targeted Youth Support; Youth Offending Team Community Safety Safeguarding in Education and Community Housing.

7. List of Preventative Services in Bolton

The following services may be able to offer support when a child is missing or at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE):

  • Children's Services Staying Safe - if a child's case is open to Children's Social Care, the social worker should be contacted in the first instance. For concerns about children with no open case, the Referral and Assessment Team in the relevant district should be contacted.
  • Greater Manchester Police - Reporting a child missing. Tel: 0161 872 5050
  • Urban Outreach (RUNA) - Works with children who have been missing from home. Tel: 01204 385848
  • Exit Team - offers support to children at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation. Tel: 01204 337195
  • Targeted Youth Support - Support for young people to improve confidence and self-esteem as well as to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. Tel: 01204 335938
  • Community Safety - Tel: 01204 331061

Other National contacts include:

  • Missing People - Tel: 116 000
  • Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command of the National Crime Agency (CEOP) - Tel: 0207 238 2341

8. Links to other Policies and Guidance

Ofsted Missing Children Guidance Report

DfE Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care (2014)

CEOP Guidance