Missing Children Reporting Procedure

A new Sussex Police reporting procedure for missing children takes effect from June 2017.

The procedure reflects recently revised national guidance for the police service and reaffirms that an effective response to missing children is a joint responsibility.

The police are entitled to expect that parents and care providers take reasonable steps to locate a missing person prior to making a report to the police.

As part of the revised procedure, when you contact Sussex Police to report a missing child or young person, you will be asked two questions at an early stage of the call:

    1. Why are you worried about this person?
    2. What has been done so far to trace them?

In relation to the second question this could include:

  • attempts to contact the child
  • calling friends or family
  • visiting areas that the child is known to frequent
  • visiting the place where the child was known to be attending, e.g. a friend’s house or party
  • checking to see if any items are missing from the home.

Note: If there are genuine concerns as to the child’s immediate safety it will always be appropriate to report the matter to Sussex police and this should be done without delay.

Missing Children – reporting procedure

(1) Child is identified as missing/absent.

Before contacting Sussex Police parent/carer to consider (2) and (3) below:

(2) What is the specific concern regarding the circumstances?

Are there specific risk factors associated with the child – e.g. child sexual exploitation, substance misuse?


Are there no apparent risk factors and the child is likely to return home within a short period?

(3) What action can be taken to resolve the situation prior to contacting Sussex Police?

Is there a means of contacting the child (e.g. phone) – and has this been attempted?

Is the child suspected to be at a known location? Can this be verified by phoning or visiting the location?

Have you contacted the child’s social worker, key worker or EDT for assistance with the situation?

(4) Has all relevant information been gathered to provide to the police if necessary?

Do you have details of:

Places the child is known to frequent?

People the child is likely to be in company with?

Current description: clothing worn, hair colour and style etc…

Access to travel: student rail card, oyster card, bus pass etc…

Access to money Details of care plan relevant to the circumstances?

Details of social worker or other significant key worker?

Knowledge of any previous missing or absent incidents?

(5) If unable to resolve as a result of own actions, or there is an identified risk, Parent/carer report to Police Contact Centre via 101

(Any immediate risk to life or serious harm dial 999)

(6) Police call handler takes details of missing child and completes a risk assessment.
(7a) Missing Person (High/Medium/Low Risk)

Police deploy to incident

(7b) No Apparent Risk ‘absent’

No police deployment.
(8a) Police attend, take details and commence search activity. (8b) Police agree time to review circumstances with parent/carer.

Parent/carer to continue activity to trace child

(9a) Missing child located or returned.

Safe and Well check (prevention interview) completed by Police
(9b) Absent child located or returned.

No police Safe and Well Check.

(10) Return Home Interviews (RHIs)

All children classified as missing will automatically be referred to Missing People Charity for a Return Home Interview.

Children frequently absent may also be referred for RHI where agencies consider this is appropriate.

Missing People/MPC/ and Children’s Services (CS) identify who is most appropriate to conduct the RHI e.g. Missing People, Social Worker, Key Worker or other trusted adult

Attempt contact (up to 8 times) with child or parent/carer to arrange RHI (Parent/carer consent under 14)

Missing People or other professional meet with child and conduct RHI using agreed RHI pro-forma


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