Making runways safer through our work with local authorities
Today we are celebrating the successes we have achieved as part of the Make Runaways Safe campaign and launching our new planning guide to support local authorities to provide better safeguarding responses to young runaways.
Since the launch of our Runaways’ Charter a year ago, over 30 local authorities across the country have committed to improving services for young runaways. Over 7000 supporters have joined our campaign and together we are working to improve the lives of the 100,000 children who run away every year.
The 32 local authorities that have signed the Runaways’ Charter have shown a clear commitment that they will put young people at the heart of what they do and that they will take steps to count, think, act and prevent to help create a safety net for young runaways in their local area.
These steps were designed by former young runaways, such as Jade, who is in the photograph to the right. Commenting on the year-on anniversary of the charter's launch, she said:
'It’s great that councils have now started to sign up to the charter as young people can now be more confident that they will be treated with more respect and understanding. I want more people to sign this charter and really believe in what it says – and most of all, to act on it!'
25,000 children who run away every year are harmed or abused
Children who run away are often at risk of great danger, such as being sexually exploited or becoming involved in crime or gangs. Running away is an indicator that something is wrong in a child’s life, with children often running away from neglect or abuse.
Of the 100,000 children who run away every year, a quarter are harmed or abused while missing.
What signing up to the charter can mean
So what difference has signing up to the Runaways’ Charter made to local services?
The charter highlighted the needs of young runaways to senior decision makers and elected members. It has strengthened the recognition of the needs of these vulnerable young people in local areas, resulting in more councils offering return interviews for young people who have run away and allowing councils to have a better understanding of the number of young runaways in their area who go missing.
Our report, published today, details some of the good practice in place around the country. This ranges from North Tyneside’s runaways’ support officer whose job is to improve their data collection and analysis of missing children, to the development of a hub by Derby City Council, where different agencies sit together and assess the risks posed to each child who has run away.
There is still more to do
We are keen to continue working with local authorities to further improve the support young runaways receive, building on the experiences and feedback from young runaways like Jade.
Our new safeguarding planning guide, published today alongside our Making Runaways Safer report, is designed to help and support local authorities further in their journey to improve services for young runaways.
The guide provides a checklist of actions local authorities should undertake and we hope local authorities and local safeguarding children’s boards will use this guide, alongside the statutory guidance on children who go missing, to improve their practice.
More than anything, it is crucial that local authorities fulfil their statutory duties for children who go missing to provide a safety net for vulnerable young runways. Recent findings from our report show this is not the case. Only one in four local authorities offer return interviews to children who go missing from home. Not because they need it less but because there seems to be a lack of clarity over whose responsibility it is to offer return interviews for children who run away from home.
We will continue to work with our local partners and lobby national politicians to ensure a secure, safe and independent safety net is in put in place for young runaways.