10 Jan 2008

Ed Balls, Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Kevin Brennan, Minister for Children will make a historic announcement today (1) that will give a lifeline to the 86,000 children under 16 across England who run away each year.

Responding to 20 years campaigning by The Children's Society, and backed by a coalition of 30 charities (2), the Government will unveil a strategy to ensure adequate measures are in place to protect and support every runaway under 16.

Research carried out by The Children’s Society (3), revealed that most of the 86,000 children who run away from home or care every year are fleeing family conflict, neglect and abuse, with girls aged 14 -15 the group most likely to run. Once these children run away they are often forced to sleep rough or with strangers and are at greater risk of sexual exploitation, violence and drug taking.

The Government has recognised The Children's Society’s and the Coalition’s call for a national safety net for runaway children which will look at developing:

• Safe Places: speedy review of how local authorities can provide safe places and
• Safe Procedures: including guidance for local authorities AND a new national indicator on young runaways
• Safe People: including roles and responsibilities in supporting young runaways

The national safety net is the result of a nine-month national consultation led by The Children’s Society, with support from the Department for Children, Schools and Families. The police, voluntary sector and local children’s services all contributed what they believe should be in place to support runaways under 16. Findings of this consultation are published today in the report ‘Stepping Up’ (4).

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive at The Children’s Society said;
"The Children's Society is delighted to see that the Government has acknowledged the seriousness of the situation facing the 86,000 children who run away each year across England. This proposed strategy will enable the police, local authorities and voluntary organisations to work together to ensure that these vulnerable young people get the help they so desperately need.”

Support from Westminster has been led by Helen Southworth, MP for Warrington South and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Runaway and Missing Children.

Since 2006 a coalition of charities, including The Children’s Society, Missing People, The Railway Children, NSPCC and local charities including Rerun in Dorset and Talk Don’t Walk in Cheshire, have united to campaign for support for young runaways. The coalition will present Ed Balls with a running shoe signed by over 100 MPs in support of today’s announcement.

Andy McCullough, Chair of the English Coalition for Young Runaways, said:
“The Coalition welcomes the Government’s commitment to supporting young runaways. The Coalition has championed the plight of these children and called for a coordinated network of support to help protect them and rebuild their lives.  We feel strongly that this is a giant step in the right direction and look forward to a time when all runaways under 16 will have some where safe to go."


(1) The announcement will be made at 1 Great George Street, Westminster, SW1P 3AA, between 3pm and 4pm this Thursday, 10th January. Media places are available at this event. If you are a member of the press and would like to attend, please contact Nicholas Breakspeare at The Children’s Society on nyb@childsoc.org.uk 07810 796 508.

(2) Coalition members include: The Children's Society, Missing People, Barnardos, Get Connected, NSPCC, NCH, Railway Children, Rerun, Safe @Last, St Christopher’s Fellowship, The London Refuge, Talk Don’t Walk, Healthy Relationships, Runaways, Community Support Team, Street Work, CROP, Crouch Valley Nightstop, Base 51, Aberlour Childcare Trust and Astra.

(3) The Children’s Society, Still Running II was published in October 2005 after a survey of 11,210 children across 70 mainstream schools, 11 pupil referral units and 13 schools for children with learning difficulties. Of those children who run away each year for the first time, 1 in 6 will sleep rough and 1 in 12 will be hurt or harmed. This follows Still Running I which was published in 1999 and is the largest national inquiry into runaways published anywhere in the world.

(4) Stepping Up - The Children's Society review of services for young runaways is available from this site>>


Notes to Editors:

Interview requests and more information for The Children’s Society including case studies: Nicholas Breakspeare, Tel: 020 7841 4422/07810 796 508

Interview requests and more information for Department for Children, Schools and Families: Jackie Stevenson Tel: 020 7925 5893 / 07785 710925 Email: Jackie.Stevenson@dcsf.gsi.gov.uk

The Children's Society is driven by the belief that every child deserves a good childhood. It provides vital help and understanding for those forgotten children who face the greatest danger, discrimination or disadvantage; children who are unable to find the support they need anywhere else.