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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 17:19 GMT
Call for database of missing
Rough sleepers
Many missing people end up sleeping rough
A major new report into the phenomenon of missing people is urging the government to set up a UK-wide database to record all cases of those who leave home and disappear.

The research, seen by the BBC, suggests only a minority of those who go missing return to their families.

Based on 2,000 cases reported to the National Missing Persons Helpline, the report is the biggest study into missing people ever undertaken.

It found two groups most likely to leave home are girls in their early teens and men between 24-30.

There isn't one source to get the scale of the problem

Jim Wade
Report author

Relationship difficulties with parents or partners are the most common reasons.

A high proportion of those who disappear spend some time sleeping rough.

And only one in five traced and found alive returned to their family.

But the University of York's Social Work Research and Development Unit, which compiled the report, say there are no reliable estimates of the scale of the problem.

'Pool information'

Only 14 police forces routinely report cases to the helpline.

The report made a number of recommendations, including promoting greater public awareness of what it means to be missing and a better understanding of groups at risk.

Jim Wade, a senior research fellow at the university and co-author of the report, said why the research showed it was important to pool information.

"There needs to be an accurate database and there are two at present - the National Missing Persons Helpline and the Police National Missing Persons Bureau," he said.

"The two don't connect together so there isn't one source to get the scale of the problem."

See also:

15 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Website to trace missing people
05 Feb 01 | Northern Ireland
Police launch missing persons website
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