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Safeguarding Children Who Go Missing: Risk, Harm and Empathy

Date: Tuesday, 18 June 2024

Time: 10am-12pm (London, UK) with a ten-minute break

Price: Free

Speakers: Sabrina HewittCounty Lines & Exploitation SpecialistRichard EastwoodSafeCall Service ManagerCharlie Hedges MBE, Missing Persons Advisor

This webinar is about children who go missing, the harm they experience while they are missing, and how we care for them when they return.

Conversations with Sabrina Hewitt, Richard Eastwood and Charlie Hedges will provide deep insight into how children experience being missing and returning, and will help us to feel what's at stake. They will also help us develop an understanding of the push and pull factors that influence whether a child goes missing and the degree to which they are at risk of harm when they are missing. We'll be challenged to reflect on the language we use to talk about children who go missing and to consider how it influences our approach to them.

We'll critically reflect on the use of – and approaches to – return home interviews, and ask whether they help us to understand what has happened to children and prevent further missing episodes. 

We'll question why we believe some children are more at risk of harm than others when they are missing. Importantly, we'll reflect on our shared responsibility to acknowledge, and to be intentional about addressing, the disproportionate number of Black children who go missing and the known disparities in the responses to Black and Asian missing children.

There's a lot at stake. Those who harm and exploit children rely on us not taking episodes of missing seriously enough and not forming the kinds of trusted relationships with children that can disrupt patterns of abuse. We have to know and do better if we want to stop children from going missing and being at risk of harm.


Learning outcomes:

  • Develop an understanding of the number of children who go missing in the UK and the range of responses to them when they return: feel what's at stake
  • Critically reflect on the language used to talk about, and with, children who are or have been missing
  • Deepen our understanding of the vulnerabilities of children who go missing and the risk of harm they face
  • Reflect on how a child who has returned from a period of being missing might experience our approach to them
  • Acknowledge the biases and assumptions around children who go missing and how that impacts on the way we care for them on their return
  • Acknowledge that a disproportionate number of Black children go missing and reflect on the known disparities in the way Black and Asian children are cared for when they return
  • Develop confidence in our ability to take the insight from the webinar into improving practice with children who go missing
  • Feel motivated to robustly advocate for children and develop the confidence to challenge poor practice where you see it.



Who should attend?

  • Social workers working with children (newly qualified to very experienced)
  • Principal social workers
  • Professionals working in primary and secondary education
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Mental health professionals
  • Police
  • Youth Offending Team professionals
  • Foster carers
  • Residential children’s home staff
  • Personal advisors
  • Youth workers
  • Professionals working in relevant charity and voluntary sector organisations


Meet the speakers


Charlie Hedges MBE

Missing Persons Advisor

Charlie's career has been in local policing and the National Crime Agency, focusing for the last 26 years on missing persons and developing national and international investigation and guidance.

On leaving law enforcement he set up Charlie Hedges Advisory, an international consultancy on missing persons. He also created the Missing Persons Information Hub (MPIH) and is currently engaged in the development of Safe and Found Online.