FINDING safe places for children who run away from home is
becoming more difficult because of funding cuts, higher thresholds
for intervention, and the declining availability of services, a new
The report Reaching Safe Places, launched this month by
the charity Railway Children, which helps children who live alone
on the streets, states that an estimated 18,000 children who run
away this year will sleep rough, or will stay with someone they
have just met.
The report, which comes after the closure of all but one refuge
for young runaways in the UK, found that four of the five top
places where young people find shelter are behind closed doors:
with friends, family, or acquaintances, or strangers' houses, and
The author of the report, Jane Thompson, who is Railway
Children's research and policy officer, said: "Risky situations can
happen almost immediately. Who you are with is far more critical
than how long you've been away. When a teenager has 'run out of
favours' . . . ending up at the home of someone they barely know
can happen very quickly. Behind closed doors, invisible to police
and social workers, they often don't realise the risks until it's
A Freedom of Information request to local authorities showed
that 71 out of the 110 that responded did not provide emergency
accommodation for runaways aged under 16. The remaining 39 helped
157 children during 2013-14.
Workers who help young people who are living rough reported
difficulties in getting social-care assessments for
The report recommends that:
• schools should play a bigger part as safe places, and provide
PSHE lessons to develop life skills;
• the Government must protect youth services that offer a safe
• local authorities must provide an interview with someone
independent, whom children can trust, as early as possible to
prevent risks escalating;
• OFSTED should inspect how local authorities deal with
under-18s who need emergency accommodation;
• local authorities should work more closely with charities to
provide alternative accommodation.
Ms Thompson said: "The well-being of these children depends on
them having support from adults they can trust. But young people
are struggling to find a safe place when they most need one."
Homeless centre to close. The Bishop of
Tewkesbury, the Rt Revd Martyn Snow, visited the Vaughan Centre for
the homeless, in Gloucester, last Friday. The centre will close in
January unless it can find £82,000 to keep it running for three
days a week over six months.
"The Vaughan Centre provides a lifeline to many people in need
of assistance," Bishop Snow said. "It would be very sad if this is
unable to continue.
"Homelessness pervades our diocese - sometimes hidden, often
overlooked, but always there. Shelter organisations provide
services relied upon by the homeless community, but, sadly, are
coming under increasing financial pressure."