Two influential groups of Parliamentarians have joined forces to launch an inquiry into the care and support provided for the thousands of children who run away or go missing from care every year.
The APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults and the APPG on Looked After Children and Care Leavers want to establish a clearer picture of local and national responses to looked after children who go missing or run away, what support is available to them and what effective interventions look like.
Children who are missing from care are in great danger of being physically or sexually abused. Research from The Children’s Society reveals that a quarter of the 100,000 children who run away from care or home each year have been the victims of significant harm or abuse.
Children in care are also three times as likely to run away than other children, so developing a better understanding of, and response to this population, is critically important to improve their outcomes.
The inquiry will look at looked-after children who are placed away from their home local authority, data collection and information sharing, police responses and the role of inspection and assessment. It will also hold a separate session looking at how to safeguard trafficked children who have gone missing from care.
The APPGs are keen to hear from interested parties, but in particular want to hear from children and young people with experiences of being looked-after and running away or going missing.
A clear set of practical recommendations will be developed for policy-makers nationally and locally, to improve help and support provided to children who run away or go missing from care.
Chair of the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, Ann Coffey MP, said: 'I very much welcome this timely inquiry into how Government and local authorities can improve support for children in care who run away or go missing. We all have a responsibility to make sure that children in this situation get the appropriate support and care they deserve.'
Vice-Chair of the APPG on Looked After Children and Care Leavers, Earl of Listowel, said: 'This inquiry will focus on making sure that the correct support and care is in place for the thousands of children who run from home or care every year.
'We look forward to a clear set of recommendations for policy-makers across the board, which will make a real impact on the lives of these often very vulnerable children.'
Shān Nicholas, Interim Chief Executive of The Children’s Society which is supporting the inquiry, said: 'The Children's Society welcomes this important inquiry. Far too often children who have run away or go missing are in great danger, with children in the care system disproportionately affected. One child in this situation is one child too many. There is an urgent need to address this issue andmake care a better experience.'
Natasha Finlayson, The Who Cares? Trust Chief Executive, said: 'Now, more than ever we need the Government to take action, as the number of children taken into care in England has hit a record high. These are some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the country today. Without the proper support these children will be at risk of exploitation and harm.'
Martin Houghton-Brown, Chief Executive of Missing People said; 'We wholeheartedly welcome this new inquiry. Children who are in state care need good corporate parenting and this Inquiry aims to get to the bottom of why children who are looked after are much more likely to run away from their state parents than children from home.'
The APPG would like to hear from children and young people with experiences of being looked-after and running away or going missing, local authority children’s services, voluntary organisations, police, fostering organisations and any other interested organisations.
The deadline for receiving written evidence is 23 April 2012. Please email Ruby.Peacock@childrenssociety.org.uk, or visit our the relevent pages on our website:
Comments can also be sent to: Policy Team, The Children’s Society, Edward Rudolf House, Margery Street, WC1X 0JL. Alternatively, please call Ruby Peacock on 020 7841 4485.
Oral evidence sessions are being held at the House of Commons in April 2012. A report is set to be published in May 2012.
For more information, please call Paul Martin in The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422, 07810487988 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.
Notes to editors
- The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Runaways and Missing Children and Adults (APPG) works to raise awareness in Parliament of issues connected to children and adults who go missing or run away.
- Over 100,000 children and young people run away each year – that is one every five minutes. Children run away from home for many reasons. Most of the time, it is because they do not feel safe in the very place they should feel most safe – their home. A quarter of them, the equivalent of 70 each day, are forced out of their homes by their parents or carers.
- The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life. For more information please visit www.makerunawayssafe.org.uk.