Report reveals lack of protection for runaway children
The Children’s Society calls for local authorities to sign up to its Runaways Charter
Police forces and local authorities up and down the country are not doing enough to protect children who run away from home or care, according to a report by The Children's Society.
The charity has published Make Runaways Safe: The Local Picture, revealing that the protection offered to children who run away from home or care varies considerably, with some areas failing to keep children safe from harm.
This is despite research which shows that one in four children who run away find themselves in a dangerous situation, such as sleeping rough, staying with strangers, begging or stealing to survive.
As part of Make Runaways Safe: The Local Picture, the charity issued Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all 153 councils in England with responsibility for child protection, as well the 39 regional police forces in England.
- two thirds (103) of councils did not have a dedicated project for children who run away
- some police forces were not able to say how many children went missing in their area
- 19 local authorities did not have a named person leading on missing children
- some police and local authorities were unable to say whether all children are receiving 'safe and well' checks and return interviews.
The Children's Society's research reveals that 100,000 children in the UK run away from home or care every year. In England alone, 84,000 under 16 year olds run away overnight on at least one occasion every year.
Make Runaways Safe: The Local Picture found little evidence that the situation for runaways was improving, with several areas reporting that dedicated services for runaway children were closing. It also appears that the situation has worsened since the government scrapped targets for runaways' provision in 2010.
The report makes a series of recommendations, including training for front-line staff, councils and the police to get better at collecting and sharing information and for every child that runs away from home to receive a 'safe and well' check and return interview.
The Children's Society, as part of its Make Runaways Safe campaign, is calling on local authorities to sign up to its Runaways Charter. The charter is written in conjunction with young people, and commits the local authority to provide a safety net for children that run away.