16 Apr 2006

The Metropolitan Police and MPs Helen Southworth and Paul Burstow are to speak about runaway children at a feedback forum hosted by The Children's Society in Parliament on Wednesday 26 April, 3pm.

The 'Safe and Sound: Lessons from America' forum follows a recent fact-finding visit to the USA where members of the Police, Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow, The Children's Society and a former young runaway met with officials from the US Federal Government, the FBI, helpline operators and refuge providers.

The aim of the trip was to see first hand how the US is tackling the problem of runaway and homeless children at risk with a Government funded network of shelters and other temporary accommodation.

The forum will look at lessons to be learned from the US experience, how to inform UK policy and help the 100,000 children aged under 16 in this country who runaway or are forced to leave home each year.

The Children's Society's ongoing Safe and Sound campaign is calling on the Government to set up a national network of children's refuges and other emergency. One in 12 runaways say they have been hurt or harmed while away from home.

Martin Houghton-Brown, The Children's Society's policy advisor, says: "Our fact-finding visit to the USA has given us more than a set of facts to report back on, it has given us a unique insight into a national model of care, support and preventative strategies that make it safer for young people who runaway or are thrown out of home."

The speakers are:

- Labour MP Helen Southworth
- Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow
- Metropolitan Police missing persons representative
- Martin Houghton-Brown, The Children's Society

The charity hopes the forum will build support for Helen Southworth's 10 Minute Rule Bill (Protection of Runaway and Missing Children), which is due to have its second reading in the House of Commons on 12 May 2006. This Bill follows the high level of support already shown for Paul Burstow's Early Day Motion 393 (Protecting Runaway Children), which has been signed by 343 Parliamentarians.

Notes to Editors:

Media enquiries: The Children's Society Media team 020 7841 4423/4422