The Children’s Society has played a leading role in new guidance released today by the DCSF. The guidance focuses on how young runaways, particularly those who run away from home, should be helped by police, the voluntary sector and local authorities.
The Children's Society has been pivotal in the drafting of this research, which leant heavily on The Children's Society’s 2007 ‘Stepping Up’ report as well as the Young Runaways Action Plan. The guidance includes a number of examples of good practice from The Children's Society, including the Lancashire Children’s Rights project and SCARPA.
It aims to ensure young people who run away from home or care do not fall through gaps in services. The measures outlined include the provision of effective out-of-hours services and emergency accommodation.
The guidance says each council must have a named person with responsibility for runaways. And an independent person should conduct return interviews with a runaway to find out what the underlying problems are, and help families if needed.
The Children's Society estimates each year 100,000 children under 16 run away for one night or more.
The guidance aims to redress the imbalance that currently exists between services offered to runaways from care and runaways from home. Stepping Up found that half of local authorities surveyed had no protocol for managing cases of children missing from home, however nearly 93% had protocols for children missing from care.
Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive of The Children's Society, said the recession could spark a rise in runaways as it makes life harder for families.
He said: "As such, this guidance is well-timed and well-executed, as it clearly outlines the support needed by those young people who do run away from home and care, as well as those at risk of running away.
"It also emphasises the responsibility of local authorities to work with the police and voluntary sector to help young people in this situation. When you submit guidance like this, the local authorities have an obligation to follow it, and therefore we hope that the changes suggested are implemented as quickly as possible.”
Bob Reitemeier was interviewed on Radio 4's Today Programme on this subject on 1 July at 08.20, whilst a young runaway helped by The Children's Society's Lancashire Children's Rights project was interviewed earlier on the same programme.
Bob Reitemeier was also interviewed at 7.50 on BBC Radio Five Live's Breakfast show.