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Saturday, 6 June 2020

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Charity creates a ‘virtual meeting’ of missing people

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As new statistics reveal the impact of the coronavirus and self-isolation on people going missing, the charity Missing People has issued a very different visual campaign appeal for information: through the now very familiar visual of a Zoom conference call. 

While families and individuals are forced into lockdown and separated from loved ones due to the coronavirus pandemic, at least most of us have been able to keep in touch thanks to the mass adoption of video conferencing online.

For some families, the current situation is even more agonising and uncertain if their loved one is one of the 186,000 children and adults that go missing in the UK every year.

The Missing People Zoom Call image released today may look like a typical catch-up meeting between friends or colleagues, however, everyone featured in the image is registered as missing. The public can help raise awareness by downloading the wallpaper for their own zoom meetings on the website: www.missingpeople.org.uk/conferencecall

Their images have been provided with the permission of family members in the hope that someone, somewhere may recognise a face or have information on that person’s whereabouts. Since lockdown standard ways to publicise a missing person have been hampered, so the charity is turning to social media and new initiatives like this to drive the public to its website. The launch comes ahead of Missing Children’s Day on the 25th May.

Those featured include Matthew Bone, aged 26 at the time of disappearance last seen in Callow End, Worcestershire on March 9, 2018, and Georgina Gharsallah, aged 30 at the time of disappearance who went missing from Worthing, Sussex on March 7, 2018.

Missing People hope that over the course of the coming weeks and months, through public support some of those currently on the Missing Zoom Call image can be found safely and ‘leave the meeting’ to connect with their loved ones through the charity.

The charity will replace anyone found with a different missing person.

Karen Bone, mother of missing Matthew Bone said:

“I support this initiative to raise awareness of Matt and the many people who go missing in the UK each year. The public can help widen the search by downloading the wallpaper, sharing missing appeals on social media and donating to the charity’s COVID-19 appeal.”

Ahead of Missing Children’s Day (25th May) Missing People now has greater evidence of the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable children. We have seen changing use of our services, with more children and young people seeking support through our digital channels and less seeking support over the phone.

In the weeks and months ahead the charity expects the issues around COVID-19 to continue to result in young people thinking about leaving or going missing and to exacerbate existing worries and problems they may have. They will continue to need our support, and we expect a continued increase in the use of digital channels to access help.

Chief Executive of Missing People, Jo Youle said:

“Children and young people are telling us that the impact of the pandemic and lockdown is having a detrimental impact on their mental health and making them think about going missing.

“The charity is proud that through great adversity our essential 24/7 support remains open for these young people. However, without urgent support that long-term support is in doubt. We have had to reduce our income predictions by £500k – and for a smaller national charity that means many children may not get the support they so desperately need.”

The charity has launched an Urgent Appeal and you can donate here.

The charity’s helpline is operated by staff and volunteers. It is free to contact and open 24 hours a day thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Sightings and information about any missing person can also be given anonymously through the Missing People website at www.missingpeople.org.uk/sightings.

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