National Missing Persons Framework for Scotland

Document providing a focus for all agencies with an interest in missing people to work together.

Objective 4: Protect

"I got there they started to inhale heroin and I have never ever seen that before. I didn't know where I was, they locked the front door and they wouldn't let me out. Then I ended up jumping out the window trying to get away" (Jasmine).

(all quotations are sourced via 3


The links between going missing and sexual exploitation, homelessness and abuse are widely recognised. Children and young people who go missing are at particular risk with 1 in 6, who slept rough or with strangers, experiencing sexual exploitation or serious violence, with an estimated 1 in 6 sleeping rough or with strangers, and 1 in 9 experiencing harm while missing. 8

The Missing People charity provides a free, confidential 24/7 helpline offering practical and emotional support for missing children and adults (through the Runaway Helpline) and for the families left behind. The Scottish Government has funded Missing People from April 2016 and will continue to do so under the current round of funding until 2018.

The commitments below seek to ensure that the risks related to going missing are highlighted to professionals, those at most risk, and more widely to the public.

Commitment 7: Government to oversee a programme of activity to raise awareness of missing people.

To many, the high number of people going missing in Scotland is a surprise. There is also a relatively limited understanding of what going missing entails and the dangers that it can involve.

By raising the profile of missing persons, this Framework can help build a better awareness and understanding.

The Scottish Government will ensure that, where appropriate, messaging about missing persons is included in, for example, wider information in relation to sexual exploitation, or mental health. We will work to raise awareness of the issue and the development of knowledge around the risks of going missing.


- Through this Framework, the Scottish Government and partners will raise awareness of missing persons; the scale of the problem; and the risks associated with going missing.

Case Study: National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland – Children and Young People who are Missing

The National Child Protection Guidance sets out a national framework to help shape local child protection practices and procedures. It aims to improve the way all professionals and organisations work together to give children the protection they need, quickly and effectively at the earliest possible stage. It also highlights the shared responsibility agencies and services have for protecting children and safeguarding their welfare.

A section 618-625 of the guidance covers children missing from statutory services, home or from care, and describes their vulnerabilities and the possible causes of going missing. "Local areas should consider a strategic multi-agency collaborative framework, including relevant third sector agencies and independent schools, to support individual agency procedures for responding to, and tracking, missing children. Collaborative inter-agency and cross-boundary working is crucial in missing children situations. Guidance needs to be clear on specific procedures to be followed for those missing from home and those missing from care, as agencies have specific statutory responsibilities in respect of children missing from local authority care."

Commitment 8: Government to ensure that risks of harm are highlighted in all relevant training and guidance.

There is already a wide range of existing relevant guidance and training for professionals, at both a national and local level. Recent national strategies and guidance (for example, Scotland's Dementia Strategy 2017-20; and the National Guidance for Child Protection have made the relevant links to going missing. Through this Framework, the Scottish Government will ensure that, where relevant, missing people are accounted for in future national strategies and approaches.

The Scottish Government will ensure that awareness raising about the risks of going missing is included in relevant national guidance.

'Protect' objective - Roles and Responsibilities

Local partnership

  • Identify opportunities for shared learning and training.

Scottish Government

  • Ensure messages about the risks of going missing are included in relevant national guidance and strategies.

Local authorities

  • Ensure messages about the risks of going missing are included in relevant local guidance and training.

NHS Scotland Health Boards

  • Ensure messages about the risks of going missing are included in relevant guidance and training.

Police Scotland

  • Ensure messages about the risks of going missing are included in relevant guidance and training.

Conclusion - supporting some of our most vulnerable people

Through this Framework, the Scottish Government is providing for a focus for all agencies with an interest in missing people to work together.

As noted above, it is the first of its kind in Scotland and is intended to provide a basis for all agencies to consider their role in supporting some of the most vulnerable people within our communities.

The Framework clarifies responsibilities and sets out a clear set of objectives and supporting commitments. It also includes and Implementation Plan ( Annex E) and makes a commitment to review progress. Through this, it will improve the way we deal with the issue in Scotland and bring more consistency to bear on how we protect and support missing people and their families.

Ultimately, however, it will be for all of us to look out for vulnerable people in our communities. Whether they are our neighbours, our friends or people that we know of otherwise, we all have a duty to spot the signs and seek help for those who need it. This Government believes that if we do this, and our agencies continue to work together, we will be able to provide people at risk of going missing and their families with the help, protection and support that they deserve.


Email: Stephen Coulter

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

Back to top