Archbishop - national safety net needed to help society’s 'forgotten' young runaways

the Archbishop of Canterbury
01 December 2011

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, paid a visit to The Children’s Society’s Safe in the City project in Birmingham yesterday to support the charity’s Make Runaways Safe campaign.

He spent the afternoon talking to young runaways and their families and meeting professionals campaigning for more support for children who run from home or care.

The Archbishop backed the charity’s calls for a national safety net for young runaways. He said in a speech: 'It needs backing at the highest level. It needs a bit of money from national government as well as elsewhere - there's no way round that.

'The actual level of knowledge about the scale of the problem is very, very low. The other side of this huge gap, this lack of knowledge, is that young people running away don't know where to go. It is a recipe for forgotten children.

'We live in a society where, quite often, children and young people are expected to be neither seen nor heard. And the vision behind this campaign about caring for the needs of runaways - that's the vision that says 'nobody should be forgotten'.'

The latest research[1] by The Children’s Society reveals that 100,000 children in the UK run from home or care every year. That is one child every five minutes. More than a quarter have been the victim of a harmful or dangerous experience.

The Children’s Society argues that teachers, social workers, police and other professionals are not stepping in and supporting the vast majority of young runaways. Around two-thirds of children who run away are not 'visible' to professionals.

Cassandra, 14, a former runaway from Birmingham, who spoke to the Archbishop, said: 'I used to run away all time because at home everyone was arguing and getting on top of each other. I did not care, but now I do. I now see all the risks of running away.

'Meeting the Archbishop was a ‘wow’ moment. I was absolutely speechless. He was really, really nice. He really listened to what I had to say. I will never forget this moment.'

Safe in the City Birmingham runs a number of projects working with children and young people at risk on the streets.

For more information please visit the Make Runaways Safe website.

Ends

Media enquiries

Please contact the media team on 020 7841 4422 or email hannah.ward@childrenssociety.org.uk. Out-of-hours: 07810 796 508. 

Notes to editor

1. Still Running 3 is the third in a series of national surveys conducted by The Children’s Society into the issue of children running away. The three waves of the survey have been conducted at six-year intervals, in 1999, 2005 and 2011.

More than 7,300 children aged 14 to 16 were interviewed in a representative sample of mainstream schools across England.

Further findings include:

  • One in five child runaways have begged, stolen or done 'other things' to survive.
  • One in nine (11%) was hurt or harmed on the last occasion they ran.
  • One in six (18%) children said they had slept rough, or stayed with, someone they had just met.
  • Children with learning difficulties or a disability are twice as likely to run away.
  • A substantial number of children run away at younger ages – more than a third first run before the age of 13.
  • Young runaways, on average, are much less likely to feel positive about school, feel they are doing less well and hold lower future educational aspirations (such as going to university). 
  • Children not living with family, including those living in foster or residential care, are almost 50% more likely to have run away at some point in their lives.

2.  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.

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[1] Rees, G (2011) ‘Still Running 3, Findings from the third national survey of young runaways’