Young girl who has run away

Today is International Missing Children's Day. If you haven't already read Jennifer's story, 'I am here to talk to you about why young people run away', please do. She is a young person we work with, and she shared her experiences at an International Missing Children's Day event. Her story is very moving.

To learn how you can support young runaways like Jennifer, visit our Make Runaways Safe campaign or make a donation and see how your money makes a difference. You can also use our runaways map to learn the state of young runaways in your area, and tell your local authority that they should sign up to our Runaways Charter.

To learn more about the day and events going on in your area and online, find out more on the International Missing Children's Day web pages.

Why International Missing Children's Day matters

Natalie Williams from our policy team and Sophie Parr from our campaigns team kindly answered some of questions about the importance of today and our ongoing work of helping young runaways. 

Q: What is International Missing Children’s Day?

A: International Missing Children’s Day has taken place across the world on 25 May since 1983. The purpose of the day is to raise awareness of children who be missing across the world, the risks associated with going missing and what the public can do to help.

The day always involves many different events run by charities and the government such as Missing People’s Big Tweet where celebrities and the public tweet the names of missing children to help search for them, sponsored runs and fundraising events.

Q: Why is there a need for IMCD?

A: According to our research, 100,000 children run away each year in the UK, that’s one every five minutes. Days such as International Missing Children’s Day help raise the profile of this vulnerable group.

Running away is a cry for help and children run away in all parts of the UK. Children run away for many reasons. It is often due to serious problems at home such as family breakdown, abuse, neglect or problems at school such as bullying or unmet special educational needs. One in five children who run away experience higher levels of family conflict and less positive relationships with their parents. 

Worryingly, only a third of children that runaway are reported to the police as missing. This is despite our research showing that one in four young runaways find themselves in a dangerous or harmful situation.

Around a quarter of children who run away are forced out of their homes by parents or carers.

Children may also be running away to things that put them in danger such as substance misuse or to predatory individuals who use them for criminal acts or sexually exploit them. There is a very strong link between running away and child sexual exploitation. 

Q: How does Make Runaways Safe relate to IMCD?

A: We launched the Make Runaway Safe campaign to ensure that in all areas there are services that children can go to when they need help and that children who are running away because they experience problems get support they need early.

The Make Runaways Safe campaign and our Runaways Charter respond to the concerns of the young people that we work with who told us that the professionals who were meant to help them let them down and perceived them as ‘troublesome’. This has meant that young runaways are denied access to help at the time they need it most.

The Runaways Charter asks the professionals who work with young runaways to understand, trust, be honest, listen, explain and show respect. It also asks councils to count, think, act and prevent to make sure that young runaways are getting the support they need.

Q: What can I and others do to support young people who run away?

A: You can make sure that young runaways are treated the way they deserve. Use our map to see if your council has pledged their support for the Runaways Charter. If they haven't, the map helps anyone easily send a message to their local authority, telling them that this is an important issue.

Q: What are we (The Children’s Society) doing for IMCD?

A: To mark the day our Policy Director, Ellen Broome, presented at an event organised by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) to celebrate the good work that has been done to tackle the problem of missing children in the past year.

She spoke alongside a young person, Jennifer, who has worked with one of our runaways projects. (Read Jennifer’s experiences of running away and the risks she faced, 'I am here to talk to you about why young people run away'.)

Ellen spoke about our research, policy, campaigning and direct services we deliver throughout the year to support missing and runaway children. She also spoke of our Runaways Charter, which 27 local authorities have pledged their support, making a commitment to tackling the reasons why young people run away. Next month we will be launching a ‘One year on’ report to show what good practice in tackling running away should look like.

Q: Can you tell me more about what we do to protect missing children?

A: We have been working with and campaigning for young runaways for the past 25 years – we are experts in what we do.

We run nine projects working with children who go run away or go missing or are at risk of sexual exploitation. We support more than a thousand children every year. We provide a range of targeted services including one-to-one intensive support to both young people and their families and awareness raising sessions for professionals (such as social workers and the police) and children. Our services provide a safe haven where children can go for independent and confidential help, advice and support.

We also work with local and national government to improve laws and policies to support young runaways. We have recently been working with the government to reform the system of support for children who go missing from care in response to a high profile parliamentary inquiry we supported and recent cases of child sexual exploitation across the country such as Rochdale.

We also campaign locally and ask people to ask their council to sign up to our Runaways Charter, which was co-written by young runaways.

By Matt Summers-Sparks - Digital Editor
Matt Summers-Sparks
- Digital team

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