Skip to content
Company Logo

Children who go Missing from Care or Home

The policy position in Cumbria is that all practitioners working with children will adhere to the procedures detailed in When a Child Goes Missing from Care or Home (Procedure), Children Missing from Education (CME) (Procedure). Following the definitions detailed in Definitions (Practice Guidance) and this will be underpinned by the practice guidance in Specific Risks for Children Who are Missing (Practice Guidance) and Children who are Foreign Nationals and go Missing (Procedure).

Children running away and going missing from care, home and education is a central issue for Cumbria Safeguarding Children Partnership. There are specific concerns about the links between children running away and the risks of exploitation. Children who are looked after (CLA) missing from their placements are vulnerable to sexual and other exploitation, especially children in residential care.

Local authorities must ensure that incidents are appropriately risk assessed. All incidents of missing or absence that are reported to the Police must also be collected and submitted by the local authority to the Department for Education as part of the annual SSDA903 data collection including all incidents of looked after children who are absent without authorisation which must also must be recorded.

This chapter is based on guidance issued under Section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 which requires local authorities in exercising their social services functions, to act under the general guidance of the Secretary of State. Local authorities must comply with this guidance when exercising these functions, unless local circumstances indicate exceptional reasons that justify a variation.

This guidance complements Working Together to Safeguard Children and related statutory guidance and the Children Act 1989 guidance and regulation volumes in respect of Care planning and review.

Acknowledgement: This guidance has taken account of the DfE Statutory Guidance on ‘Children who run away or go missing from home or care’, January 2014.

Based on the ‘Statutory guidance on children who run away or go missing from home or care’ (DfE 2014) the definitions which should be used when working with children and their families are set out as follows:

  • Child: anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. ‘Children’ is used throughout this guidance to refer to anyone under the age of 18;
  • Young runaway: a child who has run away from their home or care placement, or feels they have been forced or lured to leave;
  • Missing child: a child reported as missing to the Police by their family or carers;
  • Looked after child: a child who is looked after by a local authority by reason of a care order, or being accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989;
  • Responsible local authority: the local authority that is responsible for a looked after child’s care and care planning;
  • Host local authority: the local authority in which a looked after child is placed when placed out of the responsible local authority’s area;
  • Care leaver: an eligible, relevant or former relevant child as defined by the Children Act 1989;
  • 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 is not known;
  • Away from placement without authorisation: a looked after child whose whereabouts is known but who is not at their placement or place they are expected to be and the carer has concerns or the incident has been notified to the local authority or the Police[1].

The college of policing uses the following definition:

A missing person is anyone whose whereabouts are unknown whatever the circumstances of disappearance. They will be considered missing until located and their wellbeing or otherwise established.

In adopting these definitions Cumbria Constabulary seek to ensure that appropriate action is taken on each and every occasion. There is the potential to misidentify a vulnerable missing person if they are not recorded correctly, and as such Cumbria Constabulary does not recognise the category of ‘Absent’.

The Police classification of a person as ‘Missing’ will be based on on-going risk assessment. Therefore, throughout this policy and procedure this definition of Missing will be the trigger for actions required as detailed in the procedures section.

When a 16 or 17 year old runs away or goes missing they are no less vulnerable than younger children and are equally at risk, particularly of sexual exploitation or involvement with gangs.

When dealing with 16 -17 year olds who are missing from home and there are concerns regarding homelessness it is essential to be aware of and follow the Joint Protocol for Homeless 16-17 Young People in Cumbria and Local Area Commitment.

The exploitation of children involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where the child (or third person/s) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common.

Involvement in exploitative relationships is characterised by the child’s limited availability of choice as a result of their social, economic or emotional vulnerability.

A common feature of CE is that the child does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation.

Going missing is a significant risk factor in relation to exploitation:

  • A child may go missing because they are being exploited;
  • A child’s risk of being exploited might increase because they are missing and are spending time with people who may seek to involve them in sexual exploitation. The risk is heightened whilst they are missing because the protective factors of family or care are not available to them.

Because there is such a strong link between children going missing and risk of exploitation, professionals should always assess whether a child who has gone missing is being exploited or at risk of being exploited.

Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation. Children can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional. Groomers may be male or female. They could be any age. Many children don't understand that they have been groomed, or that what has happened is abuse.

Children can be groomed for the purpose of sexual abuse as well as other forms of exploitation including involvement in criminal and extremist activity. Children who are missing are more vulnerable to being groomed and may also go missing as a result of being groomed.

Children who go missing from care, home and education also need safeguarding against the risk of being drawn into offending behaviour by gangs or criminal groups.

Children’s homes staff and foster carers should be trained and supported to offer a consistent approach to the care of children, including being proactive about strategies to prevent children from running away; and to understand the procedures that must be followed if a child goes missing.

The competence and support needs of staff in children’s homes and foster carers in responding to missing from care issues should be considered as part of their regular appraisal and supervision.

A Looked After Children (LAC) information pack has been created by police in conjunction with partners from children's social care, health, education, youth offending and local care providers. The pack aims to provide information to care providers outlining how to deal with incidents within the home and what constitutes a missing incident and when to call the police. This is based on the National Framework to avoid the unnecessary criminalisation of children in care and aims to enable a consistent approach and ensure positive outcomes for children looked after. These packs have been provided to all care providers across the county.

Some of the children who local authorities look after may be unaccompanied asylum seeking children or other migrant children. Some children in this group may have been trafficked into the UK and may remain under the influence of their traffickers even while they are looked after. Trafficked children are at high risk of going missing, with most going missing within one week of becoming looked after and many within 48 hours. Unaccompanied migrant or asylum seeking children, who go missing immediately after becoming looked after, should be treated as children who may be victims of trafficking. Children, who have been trafficked, may be exploited for sexual purposes and the link to sexual exploitation should be addressed in conjunction with Children from Abroad, including Victims of Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Exploitation and Child Exploitation (including Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Criminal Exploitation) Procedure.

Children can suffer harm when exposed to extremist ideology. This harm can range from a child adopting or complying with extreme views which limit their social interaction and full engagement with their education, to children being groomed for involvement in violent attacks.

Children can by exposed to harmful, extremist ideology in the immediate or extended family, or relatives/family friends who live outside the family home but have influence over the child’s life. Older children might self-radicalise over the internet or through the influence of their peer network – in this instance their parents might not know about this or feel powerless to stop their child’s radicalisation.

Going missing is a risk factor in relation to radicalisation:

  • A child may go missing because they have already been radicalised;
  • A child’s risk of being radicalised might increase because they are missing and are spending time with people who may seek to involve them in radical/extreme activities. The risk is heightened whilst they are missing, because the protective factors of family or care are not available to them.

Professionals should always assess whether a child who has gone missing is at risk of radicalisation. See Radicalisation and Violent Extremism.

A child going missing can be a warning sign of a range of serious risks. Identifying patterns of missing episodes can help to recognise ongoing risks to children, and it is important therefore that professionals and carers prioritise their response to missing and know when and how to report an incident to the police.

There are, however, risks with inappropriately reporting a child missing. Over-involving the police in a child’s life by reporting an inappropriate missing episode can damage a child’s relationships with professionals and carers bringing them into unnecessary contact with the police.

If the child’s whereabouts are known or suspected, then the child should not be recorded as missing. It is the responsibility of the parents/care provider to collect them. Police assistance will be considered where there are concerns about the safety of the child and/or staff.

Before a child is reported missing parents/carers will be expected to undertake the following basic measures to try to locate the missing child if considered safe to do so and there are no concerns of immediate harm:

  • Search bedroom/accommodation/ outbuildings/vehicles;
  • Contact known friends and relatives where child may be;
  • Visit locations that the child is known to frequent if it is possible;
  • Contact local hospitals;
  • Check social media;
  • Speak to other young people in the house.

If it comes to the attention of any agency that a child is missing, they must advise the parent/carer of their need to report this matter to the Police. They also need to inform the parent/carer of the agency’s duty to ensure that the matter is reported to the Police and if necessary follow this up by contacting the Police to verify that the child has been reported missing.

The consent of the person with parental responsibility will be sought for a photograph to be used in any subsequent missing person investigation. If possible the consent of the child should be gained.

The reporting of the child should include the details of the child as follows:

  • The child’s name/s; date of birth; status; responsible authority;
  • Where, when and who missing with;
  • What was the child wearing plus any belongings such as bags, phone etc.;
  • Description and recent photo;
  • Medical history, if relevant;
  • Time and location last seen;
  • Circumstances or events around going missing;
  • Details of family, friends and associates;
  • Updated risk assessment.

Actions for Police

Every person who falls within Cumbria Constabulary’s definition of a missing person will be recorded on the Police information ‘Missing Person’ system, by a Police Officer.

All child missing person reports are reviewed in the Safeguarding Hub by a detective.

If the child is open to a social worker within Cumbria the police will share the report with the allocated social worker via secure email.

If the child is open to a social worker from outside of Cumbria the report is shared with SGH county triage team who will forward the report onto the relevant local authority.

For children not open to a social worker the Safeguarding hub detective will review the incident and consider if a multi-agency discussion within the safeguarding hub is required.

Missing reports are also shared with the child centred policing teams where appropriate.

The Police missing person co-ordinator will also notify Cumberland Safeguarding Hub or Westmorland and Furness Safeguarding Hub if there is further information on a particular case or they have a concern that needs further assessment.

Risk Classifications Employed by The Police in Missing Person Investigations


  • The risk of serious harm to the missing person or the public is assessed as very likely.


  • The risk of harm to the subject or the public is assessed as likely but not serious.

If Children under 18 will never be classed as low-risk.

i) Actions for Children Open to Children’s Services (CiN, CP, CLA and Open Assessments)

Following initial discussions between the allocated Children’s Social Care worker/or EDT duty worker (if out of working hours) and the Police, they should agree an immediate plan for locating the child and an action plan.

  • A missing from home/care meeting between relevant parties should take place and include the Police, the child’s social worker and Team Manager and the provider within three days, if the child has not been found. The action plan should be reviewed and updated; Dependent on level of risk this may need to be held earlier;
  • Missing from care meetings/discussions should be held every month to update the action plan and share information;
  • The Senior Manager and Manager should be informed of all missing episodes over 24 hours, and where children reach Stage One Missing meeting status;
  • The Senior Manager of the service area must be informed of all missing episodes over 48 hours;
  • The Assistant Director, Emergency Duty Team and the relevant area based Senior Manager should be notified via a need to know report (see Cumbria Children's Services Procedures, Need to Know Policy and Procedure (Internal Notifications)) within 48 hours of the child going missing. They will notify the Lead Member and Corporate Parenting Board within seven days of the child going missing or sooner should this be deemed necessary;
  • Any publicity will be led by the Police, the use of Child Abduction Warning Notice (CAWN) etc. will be agreed at the missing from care meeting. Recovery Orders may be used where the child is Looked After. If publicity is to be used the County Council Strategic Communications Adviser for Children’s Services must also be informed.

During the investigation to find the missing / run away child regular liaison and communication should take place between the Police, the responsible local authority Children’s Social Care services and the host authority (if an out of area placement) and any other agencies involved. When a child has been absent for a period of 48 hours the Police should update the Local authority of any significant developments at least every five days thereafter or earlier, if deemed appropriate.

The authority responsible for the child should ensure that plans are in place to respond promptly once the child is found and for determining if the placement remains appropriate.

ii) Specific Actions for Children Looked After

In respect of Children Looked After, a recent photograph bearing a likeness to the child will be kept on record by the local authority. When a child is admitted to care the consent of a person with parental responsibility will be sought for a photograph to be used in any subsequent missing person investigation. If possible the agreement of the child should also be gained; this written consent should be linked to the relevant Care Plan.

Cumbria Police have worked with care providers to embed the Philomena Protocol.

The Philomena protocol is Police initiative to help locate and safely return a young person as quickly as possible when they are missing. The basis of the scheme is for vital information about the young person to be shared with the police should there be a known risk of them going missing or being at risk of criminal exploitation. This information is recorded on police systems and is used to locate the child safely and quickly. It is also utilised to create safety plans to prevent further missing episodes.

Completed Philomena protocol forms should be emailed to RegisteredProvision&

For children who are looked after, whenever a child runs away from a placement, the foster carer or the manager on duty in the children’s home is responsible for ensuring that the following individuals and agencies are informed:

  • The local Police;
  • The authority responsible for the child’s placement – if they have not already been notified prior to the Police being informed; and
  • The parents and any other person with parental responsibility, unless it is not reasonably practicable or to do so would be inconsistent with the child’s welfare. Details of who to contact should be set out in the child's placement plan.

The carer/s should take all reasonable steps, to secure the safe and speedy return of the child based on their own knowledge and the information in the child's Placement plan. If there is suspected risk of harm to the child or those seeking to recover the child the carer/s should liaise immediately with the Police.

When Cumbrian Looked After Children are placed out of county then as part of the plan with the host authority it should be specified that all Police reports in regard to missing episodes must be shared with Cumbria’s Safeguarding Hub. In addition, if any missing or found reports are received by the social workers these need to be sent onto the Safeguarding Hub as soon as possible. Until the Police missing reports are received within the Hub a return home interview cannot be requested.

Safe and well checks are carried out as soon as possible after the child has returned. These will be carried out by the Police within Cumbria. This will not be the case if the child is located in a different force area; if this occurs then the Police area where the child is located will conduct the safe and well check. Their purpose is to check for any indications that the child has suffered harm, where and with whom they have been, and to give them an opportunity to disclose any offending by or against them.

The assessment of whether a child might run away again should be based on information about:

  • Their individual circumstances;
  • Family circumstances and background history;
  • Their motivation for running away;
  • Their potential destinations and associates;
  • Their recent pattern of absences;
  • The circumstances in which the child was found or returned; and
  • Their individual characteristics and risk factors such as whether a child has learning difficulties, mental health issues, depression and other vulnerabilities;
  • What the child is telling us.

The Police, via the Missing Exploited and Trafficked Officer will inform the Safeguarding Hub of any cases where a child has been reported missing and when the child has returned.

Once it has been confirmed that a child has returned and is safe and well an independent return home interview should be offered.

If the child is not open to Children's Social Care, Cumbria Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub will trigger the return home interview. If the child is open to Children’s Social Care this will be undertaken by the allocated social work team.

The person conducting the interview should usually be independent of the child's placement and of the responsible local authority. An exception maybe where a child has a strong relationship with a carer or social worker and has expressed a preference to talk to them, rather than an independent person, about the reasons they went missing. Children sometimes need to build up trust with a person before they will discuss in depth the reasons why they ran away. In Cumbria the allocation for return interviews is as follows:

  • If the child is not open to Children's Social Care but requiring a return interview then the return interview is undertaken by the County Councils’ Targeted Youth Support Service. This information will be returned to the Hub and a decision will be taken on what needs to happen next. For example, provision of information and advice, the threshold is met for an early help meeting to be instigated or progressed to referral to Social Care for an assessment of need;
  • NYAS will undertake all required return interviews for cases open to Cumbria Social Care who live within Cumbria (CLA, CP, CIN, Open Referral) and for children who are looked after by Cumbria Children’s Services but are placed outside of the county;
  • For Children who are not open to Social Care at the time they go missing but due to concerns raised are deemed to meet the threshold for a Child and Family Assessment, the return interview will be completed by the district Social worker as part of that process;
  • For Children Looked After place within Cumbria by another authority, it is the placing authorities’ responsibility to facilitate the return interview. The responsible local authority should ensure the Return interview takes place, working closely with the host authority. NYAS offer a spot purchase arrangement with the placing authority and will arrange this directly with them.

The interview must be completed within 72 hours of the child returning home (in a neutral place where they feel safe).

Where children refuse to engage with the interviewer, parents and/or carers should be offered the opportunity to provide any relevant information and intelligence they may be aware of. This should help to prevent further instances of the child running away and identify early the support needed for them.

Once the return home interview has been undertaken the Return interview form must be completed and returned to either the Cumberland Safeguarding Hub or Westmorland and Furness Safeguarding Hub or the allocated social worker (the team that made the request for the interview to take place). This information will then be used to inform any planning or actions by the social worker.

The completed forms should also be shared with Cumbria Police

It is the responsibility of the allocated social worker to finalise the missing episode once any learning has been acted upon for the young person.

i) Specific Action for Children Looked After

Where a looked after child has run away they should have the opportunity to talk, before they return to their placement, to a person who is independent of their placement about the reasons they went missing. The child should be offered the option of speaking to an independent representative or advocate.

The local authority children’s Social Care services, Police and other agencies involved with the child should work together to assess the child and:

  • Build up a comprehensive picture of why the child went missing;
  • What happened while they were missing;
  • Who they were missing with and where they were found; and
  • What support they require upon returning home.

i) Specific Actions for Children Open to Children’s Services (CiN, CP, CLA and Open Assessments)

For open cases to Children's Services the return interview must be discussed and analysed alongside the plan and risk assessment and it must be recorded with relevant actions within a case supervision in a timely manner.

Where a child already has an established pattern of running away, the CLA Care Plan/Pathway Plan/Child Protection Plan/Child In Need Plan/Early Help Plan should include a strategy about keeping the child safe and minimising the likelihood of the child running away in the future. This should be discussed and agreed as far as possible with the child and with the child’s carers and should include detailed information about the responsibilities of all services, the child’s parents and other adults involved in the family network. Independent Reviewing Officers (IROs) should be informed about missing / absent episodes where involved and they should address these in statutory reviews.

ii) Children Not Open to a Social Work Team

If the child has an Early Help Assessment in place or no plan then repeat missing episodes should be seen as a trigger to step up to child & family assessment a referral should be made to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub using the single contact form and attaching copies of return home interview forms.

iii) Repeat Missing Episodes

Irrespective of the nature of the plan the child is on the following should take place if the child has had repeat missing episodes.

Stage One Intervention Meeting

Where a child has been missing for 5 episodes within a 90 day rolling period a ‘Stage One Intervention’ meeting must be held. If at this stage the child has not been referred to the Safeguarding Hub as a result of repeat episodes, this MUST be referred immediately. There would have to be exceptional circumstances for this not to then result in a transfer to Social Work for assessment and appropriate intervention. This meeting is crucial in avoiding escalation and must, therefore, be give high priority by all concerned. It must be held within 4 working days of the last episode (reaching threshold level). The meeting should be chaired by a Children’s Services Team Manager, for those cases which have only been referred to SG Hub upon hitting Stage one criteria, a Team Manager from the district in which the child resides will need to chair the meeting. Attendees should include:

  • Child;
  • Social worker or relevant lead professional;
  • Police local Missing, Exploited, Trafficked Coordinators;
  • Parents and or carers, Residential worker or foster carer;
  • Fostering social worker (where relevant);
  • Author of return interview;
  • The designated health professionals for Looked After Children (where relevant);
  • Inclusion Officer for Children Looked After (where relevant);
  • Other relevant professionals (Health, Education, YOS etc.).

A Multi-Agency Safety Plan should be agreed at the meeting and shared with present or invited partners. This meeting should seek to ensure reduced further episodes and reduce any apparent risk factors to the child.

See Missing From Home Stage One Meeting Form.

Stage Two Intervention Meeting

Where a child has been missing for 9 episodes within a rolling 90 day period a ‘Stage Two Intervention’ meeting must be held. It must be held within 4 working days of the last episode (reaching threshold level). Representatives from each organisation and interested parties must prioritise and be present. The meeting should be chaired by an Independent Reviewing Officer or a Children's Services ‘Service Manager’. Attendees are as in Stage one meeting plus the relevant Team Manager.

This meeting should not only seek to ensure reduced further episodes and reduce any apparent risk factors to the child but should also quality assure compliance with the protocol and efficacy of the Stage One Intervention Meeting and return interviews.

A Multi-Agency Safety Plan should be agreed at the meeting and shared with present or invited partners

See Missing from Home Stage Two Meeting Form.

If a child continues to be reported missing beyond this level the relevant Service Manager must consider the case and direct further intervention. Further strategies should be managed by the Service Manager until the risk to the child has been reduced and/or the missing episodes have been reduced or ceased. If there is no reduction in the missing episodes the Service Manager must take the responsibility for escalating the case up the management hierarchy.

Volume of missing episodes is not the only reason to hold an intervention meeting or escalate the level of intervention and managers (and involved agencies) need to consider whether to hold this meeting earlier, for example:

  • The risk involved in even a single missing episode is very high;
  • Cases where it is identified that immediate action is necessary to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child.

As well as the people who attended the meetings, copies of the minutes need to be provided to the Missing Exploited Trafficked Coordinator (METCO) who will record on police intelligence systems.

iv) Specific actions for Children Who Are Looked After and Go Missing

Local authorities have a duty to place a looked after child in the most appropriate placement to safeguard the child and minimise the risk of the child running away. The Care Plan and the Placement Plan should include details of the arrangements that will need to be in place to keep the child safe and minimise the risk of the child going missing from their placement or home.

  • The Care Plan (CLA children looked after/Child Protection Plan /Child in Need Plan/Early Help Plan) – should include strategies for absences; vulnerability and risks;
  • The Placement Plan (for CLA) – include strategy for preventing child from running away / going missing; the day to day arrangements to keep the child safe.

A specific risk assessment should be completed for all children for whom there is concern that they may run away and shared with relevant parties. It should be referred to/cross referenced in the child’s care plan. This should be a dynamic risk document and should be regularly reviewed in the supervision of the allocated worker/foster carer/residential key worker and in planned reviews until risk is diminished. See Risk Assessment for Children/Young People who are at Risk/Go Missing from Home/Care.

When Cumbrian Looked After Children are placed out of county then as part of the plan with the host authority it should be made clear that all Police reports in regard to missing episodes should be passed onto Cumbria’s Safeguarding Hub. However, if any missing reports are received by the social workers these need to be sent onto the Safeguarding Hub as soon as possible. Until the Police missing reports are received within the Hub a return home interview cannot be requested.

The designated health professionals for Looked After Children and Inclusion Officer for Children Looked After should contribute to the Care Plan and should be informed of children missing from care who are deemed to be ‘medium’ or ‘high risk’. They should be included in any multi-Agency strategy or stage one/stage intervention meetings or activity to manage the child’s retrieval and any subsequent health or education needs which may emerge

v) Children Who are Not Cumbrian and Placed in Cumbria

When a child is placed into Cumbria by another local authority who is identified as being at risk of exploitation or going missing, the provider with which the child is placed must notify Cumbria Police utilising the Philomena Protocol.

The Philomena protocol is a Police initiative to help locate and safely return a young person as quickly as possible when they are missing. The basis of the scheme is for vital information about the young person to be shared with the police should there be a known risk of them having a missing episode or being at risk of exploitation. This information is recorded on police systems and is used to locate the child safely and quickly.

Completed Philomena protocol forms should be emailed to RegisteredProvision&

The Children’s Home Regulations require providers to have explicit procedures in place to be followed whenever a child is absent without authorisation or has run away or is missing from their placement. This procedure must take into account Police and local authority protocols for managing missing person's incidents in the area where the provision is located see the Quality Standards (see Children's Homes Regulations including Quality Standards - Children Missing from the Children’s Home).

If a child is, or has been, persistently absent without permission from residential care and the Home/Manager considers that the child is at risk of harm, the Manager should ask the placing authority to review the child's Care Plan.

When a child is placed out of their local authority area, the responsible authority must make sure that the child has access to the services they need. Notification of the placement must be made to the host authority and other specified services. The notification to the host authority must include details of the assessment of the child's needs and the reasons why the placement is the most suitable for responding to these; and a copy of the child's Care Plan.

Designated Professionals for CLA should share relevant information and intelligence relating to high risk individuals or emerging themes and patterns indicative of organised and targeted abuse.

Cumbria SCP have a ‘Procedure for Schools - Children Who Go Missing Throughout The School Day’ in place. This protocol refers to pupils who register at school in the morning and then go missing during the school day without a satisfactory explanation.

Schools will have procedures for pupils who fail to register, if there are concerns about the level of attendance the Enforcement Guidance should be used.

A separate procedure exists for Children Missing from Education. The Department for Education (DfE) defines a child missing education as a child who is not on a school roll and has been out of education for more than 4 school weeks. The term Children Missing from Education (CME) therefore refers to all children of compulsory school age who are neither registered at a school nor educated otherwise (i.e. home educated or privately educated).

Any child who is the responsibility of Cumberland Council and Westmorland and Furness Council Children’s services as an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC) will be treated in the same way as any other Cumbrian Looked after Child. This includes, once confirmed as a UASC with Cumbria, whether they are placed in OR out of the county. However, if they are missing for any consecutive period of 28 days or more, they may not be treated as a Looked After Child, A decision will be made in respect of their Looked After status in line with the point where the Home office ceases payment. Cumbria would still hold responsibility of the child through Social Work teams with an allocated social worker and would reinstate once they had been found and returned to care.

When an Unaccompanied child goes missing normal procedures within county to find a Looked After child should be followed. In addition the Home Office Evidence and Enquiry Unit should be informed when a young person goes missing, or is found, on Further information about this can be found at Identifying people at risk page 24 “Child or vulnerable adult accompanied by the local authority or in hospital”.

If this young person is an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC) then the Asylum casework safeguarding team must also be informed.

If a child goes missing as part of the National Transfer Scheme then these details also need to be shared with relevant parties. This is done by completing Part (E) for the Unique Unaccompanied Child Record and sent to National Transfer Team at If you have any further queries regarding this then please contact the North West team at

  • Definitions;
  • Action and Responsibilities when the whereabouts of a Child ‘subject to restrictions’ is not known;
  • Action when the Child ‘subject to restriction’ is found.

This section applies to children who are ‘subject to restriction’. i.e. who have:

  • Proceeded through immigration control without obtaining leave to enter; or
  • Left the border control area Border Force accommodation without permission; or
  • Been granted temporary admission; or
  • Been granted temporary release or bail; or
  • Released on a restriction order; or
  • Served with a ‘notice of liability to deport’ or is the dependant of a foreign national offender whose status in the UK is under consideration by criminal casework – these dependants could be British Citizens or have extant leave.

A missing person’s referral must be made by Home Office staff to the Police, the UK Missing Person Bureau and the local authority children’s social care in a number of circumstances including:

  • When a child ‘subject to restriction’ is identified as having run away from their parents;
  • Where they are looked after and have gone missing from their placement;
  • Where they are being hidden by their parents and where there is concern for the child’s safety because they are being hidden by, or have gone missing with, their family.

A copy of the missing persons notification form must be faxed or emailed to the local authority duty desk and the UK MPB.

If it is believed by Home Office staff that a child is being coerced to abscond or go missing, this must be reported as a concern that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm to the local Police and children’s social care services.

Notifications will also be made where a missing child is found by Home Office staff. See Home Office Guidance: Missing Children and Vulnerable Adults Guidance.

The local authority and health are responsible for:

  • Reporting any missing child who is in their care to the Police;
  • Notifying the Home Office when a child is reported missing to the Police or is found.

The Police are responsible for:

  • Investigating all children reported missing by the Home Office - following receipt of a missing person’s notification;
  • Conducting joint investigations with the Home Office where necessary;
  • Circulating a missing child on the Police National Computer (PNC).

The Police central point of contact is the PNC Team in Liverpool.

The local authority will also notify the Home Office Evidence and Enquiry Unit when a child in their care goes missing or when a missing child returns or is found. The Home Office must maintain regular weekly contact with the local authority and the Police until the child is found and record all contact with the Police and local authority.

Found by Home Office Staff

The local Police and local authority must be informed immediately.

In consultation with the local Police and local authority children’s social care, a decision will be made as to where the child is to be taken, if they are not to be left at the address where they are encountered. The Home Office must follow up enquires with the local Police and children/adult services in order to identify if there are any safeguarding issues.

Found by the Police or local authority

The Home Office Command and Control Unit [1] will be the single point of contact for the local Police and the Evidence and Enquiry Unit Evidence and Enquiry Unit [2] will be the single point of contact for local authorities to notify the Home Office that a child has been found.

[2] Home Office UK Border Agency, Evidence and Enquiry Unit, 12th Floor Lunar House, 40 Wellesley Road, London, CR9 2BY.

Legislation, Statutory Guidance and Government Non-Statutory Guidance

Statutory Guidance on Children who Run Away or Go Missing From Home or Care

Good Practice Guidance

College of Policing: Missing Persons

Last Updated: February 5, 2024