Gathering and sharing data on young people who run away from care
Ever year 100,000 children run away in the UK. When they run away, they put themselves at very serious risk of physical abuse, sexual exploitation and crime. Children in care are three times more likely to run away than children living at home.
We are supporting an inquiry by two parliamentary groups that looks at the care and support provided for the thousands of children who go missing from care each year.
The inquiry’s second public evidence session was last Thursday. Witnesses were from a wide range of organisations that work with young people, including West Mercia Police, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the runaways project Talk . . . Don’t Walk.
Missing data is a major issue
Witnesses unanimously agreed that the true scale and nature of children going missing from care is not known because of failures in how data is collected and shared by police, local authorities and the Department for Education.
One witness noted that until it is known what is going on in local areas, no one can properly understand the issues or effectively intervene in the lives of these vulnerable children.
Why young people run away and identifying their need for support
The panellists also heard how children in care who go missing are not given the support they need to address the reasons why they are running away.
Alison McCausland, Founder of Talk . . . Don’t Walk, talked about her experiences of children being moved from care placement to care placement because they were running away, rather than supported to deal with the issues driving them to run away.
Peter Davies, Chief Executive of CEOP, highlighted the difficulties the police can have in supporting children who run away.
He noted that there was a conflict for the police. Many children who come into contact with the police are often seen as criminals, not as 'at risk' before or during the time they were missing or potential victims of crime.
Led by two parliamentary groups, the inquiry aims to develop a report that contains a practical set of recommendations to address the problem of children going missing from care. The report will be launched in June.