Skip to main content
Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website

1.4.4 Missing from Home Service


This chapter should be read in conjunction with:

Statutory guidance on children who runaway or go missing from home or care (January 2014)

Electronic submission of MFH Reports- Expectations of Care Providers

Children Missing from Education

Greater Manchester Police Missing from Care (MFC) Electronic Submission of Missing Person Report (F737) Procedure, as at February 2011

OPUS Missing Person Report

Joint Protocol for Children and Young People Missing from Home/Care

Greater Manchester SCP Procedures, Children Missing from Home and Care - A standardised approach to dealing with missing and absent children and young people across Greater Manchester


This chapter was significantly updated in May 2018 to reflect the changes that have been undertaken by adding additional information about the Missing from Home Service (see Section 7, Missing from Home Service) and Missing from Home Operational Meeting (see Section 8, Missing from Home Operational Meeting). Please note the expectation that return home interviews will be completed within 72 hours.

Note also the revised College of Policing definition of ‘Missing’ and ‘Absent’ (See Section 2, Definitions).


  1. Introduction
  2. Definitions
  3. Categories of Absence
  4. Reporting
  5. Notifications of Children Reported Missing
  6. Management of Children Reported Missing
  7. Missing from Home Service
  8. Missing from Home Operational Meeting

1. Introduction

The Salford Safeguarding Children's Partnership has endorsed the Greater Manchester protocol 'A standardised approach to dealing with missing and absent people of all ages across Greater Manchester' regarding Children and Young People Missing from home/care.

This protocol is designed to deliver a co-ordinated, standardised and effective response to reports of people going missing, with Police working in partnership with partner agencies and bodies.

The Protocol takes full account of the Statutory Guidance on Children who Run Away and Go Missing from Home or Care and sets out interagency roles and responsibilities in responding to runaways. The protocol contains the key actions for case workers within Children's Safeguarding and Specialist Services and should be read in conjunction with these procedures.

Children who go missing from care and home are amongst our most vulnerable children. Running should be seen as an indicator of underlying problems which may need further intervention, however whatever the reason, children who decide to run away are, vulnerable and at risk.

2. Definitions

Missing child (up to the age of 18): the current statutory guidance uses the following:

Missing child

A child reported as missing to the police by their family or carers.

Missing from Care

A Looked After Child who is not at their placement or the place they are expected to be (e.g. school) and their whereabouts are not known.

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.

Young Runaway

A child who has run away from their home or care placement, or feels they have been forced or lured to leave.

For the College of Policing definition of missing and absent click here

The police classification of a person as ‘Missing’ or ‘Absent’ will be based on on-going risk assessment. A child whose whereabouts are known would not be treated as either ‘Missing’ or ‘Absent’ under the police definitions.

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 to locate the child/young person prior to making a report to the police. Where they remain absent, and you feel that they may be at risk of harm, then a report should be made to the police.

Police will attend reports of ‘missing’ children/young people’.

3. Categories of Absence

Clearly some children absent themselves for a short period and then return, with their whereabouts known to the carer. Sometimes children stay out longer than agreed, either on purpose to test boundaries, or accidentally. To cover these situations the category of 'absent' should be considered. Examples of situations where 'absent' will apply are:

  • Running away after a dispute;
  • Failing to return on time;
  • Staying at a known location with a friend.

Child Abduction

Where a child has been abducted or forcibly removed from their place of residence, this is a crime "crime in action" and should be reported to the police immediately.

4. Reporting

All children who run away or go missing should be reported to the police, who have a statutory responsibility for all missing persons.

If you consider that a child or young person is at immediate risk, the police should be contacted as a 999 emergency.

In normal circumstances this would be done by the child's parents or carers. Where professionals are working with a family, they should support the carers to do so. Or undertake this themselves if the carers are unwilling.

For Children Looked After this should be done either by the foster carer, residential staff in conjunction with their own procedures, and where appropriate with the allocated case worker.

See 'A standardised approach to dealing with missing and absent people of all ages across Greater Manchester' - Children Missing from Care or Home for the detailed guidance on children missing from care and home.

5. Notifications of Children Reported Missing

All episodes of children reported missing to Greater Manchester Police (GMP), are recorded by electronic notification to the OPUS system.

Customer Services, within Duty and Assessment Team (DAT), will receive notification of all missing children, through the 'Worried About a Child' inbox. This will be created as a contact, on the Integrated Care System (ICS) and will be screened by the Duty Manager to understand the risks associated with each individual case.

This includes all cases both for those reported missing from home or children looked after.

Where a case is open, the notification is entered on to the ICS system as an observation and forwarded to the relevant practice manager and social worker who holds case responsibility.

Children's Services receive notifications from the police of when runaways are found. The notification will be recorded within observations and forwarded to the relevant social worker.

6. Management of Children Reported Missing

A decision will be made with 24 hours regarding the level of need and type of intervention required for the child/family/carers.

If the Practice Manager has established that a return home has happened and considers that the young person and their family could benefit from an early intervention approach, they will refer the case to the Early Intervention and Prevention Service. EIP will make contact with the young person and parent(s)/carer(s) to discuss family support needs and will provide community based support where needs have been identified, (which could include a Common Assessment Framework (CAF)/Team around the family approach).

Where further assessment is required the referral will be allocated to the Missing from Home social worker for a The Children and Families Assessment.

If there are child protection concerns the referral will be jointly managed by the Duty and Assessment Team (DAT) and the Missing From Home social worker. Salford's Child Protection Procedures will be followed.

Particular attention will be paid to the child's age and vulnerability and whether the following factors exist;

  • Has been missing for over 24 hours;
  • Has been missing on two or more occasions;
  • Has engaged in criminal activities during their absence;
  • Has been hurt whilst they have been missing;
  • Is known to have mental health issues;
  • Is assessed at risk of sexual exploitation;
  • Is in contact with persons posing a risk to children;
  • Forced marriage, honour based violence.

Has been missing from school (see Children Missing from Education).

7. Missing from Home Service

The Missing from Home service is a joint partnership between the Police and Children Services.

The service is available 7 nights a week from 6pm-midnight.

The team is made up of a Social Work Practice Manager, two missing from home workers from children services, a Police Officer and a consistent pool of sessional workers from different Children Service agencies covering shifts for sickness and/or annual leave for the missing from home workers.

The Missing from Home service will visit and disrupt known addresses where young people who are missing are visiting. This intelligence is often shared with the Police and sometimes licensing teams.

The Missing from Home service will share their mobile number with young people to negotiate a safe return even if a young person has not yet been reported missing from home.

The Missing from Home service will assist parents (notably when first time missing from home) in providing assistance and direction to appropriate services.

The Missing from Home Workers, together with key partner agencies, work to ensure children and young people who are reported missing and who meet the threshold for Social Work intervention are assessed and supported. This will include contributing to the multi-agency plan for the child while providing intelligence and reports for CP/CIN/LAC meetings.

The missing from home service will support and assist with the development of a child’s multi agency missing from home plan and risk assessment.

The Missing from Home Worker will endeavour to offer all young people who go missing in Salford a return interview within 72 hours of the Police notification they have returned home. If further work or intervention is necessary the Missing from Home Worker will signpost to partner agencies to minimise further missing episodes.

Where a young person has an allocated worker and is known to Child in Need, Child Protection or Looked After Children's Services the allocated social worker will continue to hold case responsibility and will work in partnership, where necessary with the Missing From Home Worker.

8. Missing from Home Operational Meeting

This a multi-agency meeting chaired by a Service Manager from Children's Service's, which meets weekly.

The representatives include -

  • Service Manager Children’s Services (Chair);
  • Missing from Home Practice Manager;
  • YOS Representative;
  • Children's Homes Representative;
  • Greater Manchester Police;
  • Salford Phoenix;
  • Missing From Education Representative;
  • Health Representative;
  • Looked After Team;
  • Child Protection Team;
  • Outreach Services;
  • Early Intervention Services;
  • Independent Review Service;
  • Leaving Care service;
  • Salford Youth Service.

The Group considers all young people at risk of or missing from home and young people who may be at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation.

All cases are reviewed at the meeting to support risk management and case management. Where necessary cases are reviewed on a weekly basis to ensure appropriate support and interventions are agreed and implemented in a timely manner.

Referrals received from GMP are discussed at the multi-agency operational meeting. If ongoing support is required a range of interventions are offered and joint work is undertaken with a range of professionals including the Integrated Youth Service, Outreach service, Early Intervention and social work intervention.

Expectations include the completion of return interviews within 72 hours.

Information discussed about individual cases at the operational meeting are shared with relevant social workers and decision making inputted onto case files as an observation. This meeting is used to share information, identify risks and agree actions. If, following an in depth conversation with the child and parents, it is felt that the child is at low risk of running away again, and there are no further safeguarding concerns, the case will be closed. In this event, the child and parents will be given information about where to seek help in the future if needed.