Children reported ‘missing’ to the police: is it possible to ‘risk assess’ every incident?

Carol Hayden, Jo Goodship

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article focuses on the high volume of children reported missing to the police in relation to the potential risks posed. It draws on a two-year multi-method research project across one police force that covers four local authorities in England. Most children (93 per cent) were located within a day and often in hours or less. This more everyday aspect of the missing issue is highlighted as different from much research in the field which focuses on children missing for longer periods. Overall, this police force had nearly 10,000 missing persons reports in a one-year period, of which around three-quarters were reports on children. The research found that, although the proportion of children in care reported missing was high (44.9 per cent of incidents and 28.7 per cent of individuals), the great majority of individual children were reported missing from home. The capacity to respond and meaningfully ‘risk assess’ every case was hampered by the high volume of reports that were outside office hours; the lack of readily shared data about many children; as well as different conceptions of risk across police and social care services.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440–456
JournalThe British Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
Early online date4 Sept 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


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