‘Safety net needed’ for runaways

17 November 2011

by Paul Wilkinson

MORE joined-up thinking from government and local agencies is needed to cut the huge number of children who run away from home each year, the Children’s Society says in a new report.

Still Running 3 suggests that, on average, a child under 16 runs away from home or care every five minutes. “We know why children run away,” the chief executive of the society, Bob Reitemeier, said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tues­day. “It’s largely to do with family relationships, and so you have to deal with that.”

The survey found that children who experienced family change and conflict over the previous year were three times as likely to run away as those who did not.

“This is a classic case where joined-up working is required,” Mr Reitemeier said. “Central govern­ment has to take a leading role in setting a strategic direction and ac­tually committing to a national action-plan. This is not about a local authority working in isolation.”

The report found that a quarter of runaways became the victim of a harmful or dangerous experience. One in nine was hurt or harmed; and one in five begged, stole, or did “other things” to survive.

“Huge numbers of children are putting themselves in very dangerous situations,” Mr Reitemeier said. “One child in this situation is one child too many. . . We have shown that argu­ments and other family conflict play a massive part in a child’s decision to run. Poor-quality family relation­ships and neglectful parenting are making children and young people feel helpless.

“Never has the need for a national safety net of help for young run­aways been greater. We urge the Gov­ernment and other professionals to put this issue to the top of their priority lists.”


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