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I'm thinking of running away

If you’re thinking about running away, you’re probably worried about some of the consequences of doing it. Will your parents be angry? Will you be safe on the streets? Can you get arrested for running away? Whilst we can't answer the first one, the second two are easier to answer.

what's it like to run away?

girl in an alley

What's it like to run away?

Sometimes you may think about running away from home because of abuse, arguments or violence. Other times it may be because you’ve been persuaded to by a peer, gang or a partner. All of these are known as ‘pull’ factors. Whatever the reason, you need to know the risks you could face when you run away from home. 

Being on the streets is dangerous. Being homeless means you nowhere safe to sleep, nowhere to charge your phone, brush your teeth or get a shower.  

Have you thought about how you’ll get money for food and drink? Or how you'll stay healthy in bad weather? You may also run into people looking to exploit these needs.

Is it illegal to run away?

Going missing is not illegal in the UK, and you won’t be in trouble with the police if you do it. So, if you feel like you need to speak to the police when you’ve run away or are living on the streets, you don’t need to let the fear of being punished stand in your way. 

If someone is telling you that the police will arrest you or you will be in trouble with the law, they are lying to you. Often adults who want to exploit young people tell them they will be in trouble with the police, because these exploiters don’t want the police to find out what they’re doing or have been making you do.

Will I be safe on the streets? 

If you’re living on the streets you’ll be at a much higher risk of being attacked, abused, becoming ill, being hungry.

Criminal groups will take advantage of the fact you don’t have a warm place to stay, you are hungry and you need somewhere to wash or go to sleep. They’ll offer you these things in exchange for you doing ‘favours’ for them, but these favours usually turn out to be carrying and selling drugs, or having sex with people you don’t want to.

So, while running away may be legal, it’s very rarely a good idea. You should think of running away as a last resort. If you really want to run away from home or from your parents or carers, you should talk to a trusted adult like a teacher or friend's parent. There are also professionals that can help.

Missing helplines

If you're thinking of running away, are currently missing or being forced to leave home, you should talk to an adult you trust - an aunt, grandparent, friend's parents.

There are also helplines to help you talk about your problems and get good advice without feeling judged.   

  • Call the Missing People helpline on 116 000 if you're thinking of running away or know someone who has run away. It's free, confidential and available 24/7.
  • Call Childline on 0800 1111 if you're under 18 and want to talk about something that's worrying you. You can also call the Samaritans on 116 123.
  • If you're looking for local help, find your local council's website and contact your local social services team.

If you're in danger or need emergency help, call the police on 999.