Going Missing

  • Staying out all night?
  • Bunking off school?
  • Thinking of running away?

Young people run away or go missing from home and school for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes it’s just for a few hours or overnight, and sometimes it can be for longer.

You may feel the need to escape from trouble, hassle or something you are worried about. You may feel bored and want to fit in and hang out with friends. Or you might feel that no one cares – that no one would be bothered if you went missing.

Whatever the reason, the tragic fact is that children and young people who go missing or absent are more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violent crime, gang exploitation, and drug and alcohol misuse.

Children who go missing often head to town centres and parks where they mix with other young people to hang out and – in some cases – experiment with drink, drugs. Child abusers and other criminals deliberately target such places to take advantage of these vulnerable young people.

Stay safe

All of these risks mean it can be really dangerous if you run away – whether it’s bunking off school for a for a few hours or disappearing from home for a few days. It is important to stay safe and be able to recognise what child sexual exploitation is and how to spot the signs.

There’s some great advice on the Missing People website if you are thinking of running away, or have done in the past. They run a free helpline available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s free to call or text and is totally confidential. Call or text 116 000. Email [email protected].

  • They can listen and help you work out what you want to do next
  • They can get a message home for you, set up a three-way call to help you contact someone you need to speak to, or support you if you’re ready to come home
  • They are NOT the police or social services and will NOT make you go home.
  • More information is available at the Runaway Helpline, which is also run by Missing People.

Help and support is also available from these other organisations.

If you’re worried that you or someone you know has been sexually exploited, get help from your local child sexual exploitation team.

Returning home

If you come back home after running away and you have been reported missing, the police should carry out a ‘safe and well’ check on you. This is to make sure that you haven’t suffered any harm or been a victim of crime. They may also ask who you have been with and what you have been doing. The police have specially trained staff to support you and can put you in touch with other teams to help you with any issues or problems at home that you may be having.

Your local council should also offer you a ‘return home’ interview. This will be to find out more about why you went missing or ran away and to see if you need any help and support to make sure you stay safe from harm.


A young person speaks about their experiences of going missing from home.

A video created by a group of young people from Talkshop in Trafford, an advice and information centre for young people, to raise awareness of young people who go missing, the risks that come with it and the strong link between going missing and child sexual exploitation. The video is based on real experiences of young people from Trafford.

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