Posted: 19 June 2012

Protecting young people who run away from care

Campaigning to safeguard and protect young people who run away has been at the top of our agenda for over a quarter of a century, most recently in our Make Runaways Safe campaign. We have done this because the government, local agencies and professionals have not prioritised the care and protection of these often incredibly vulnerable children.

Due to our direct work with children and young people we know that running away is an early indicator that something is wrong in a child’s life. It is critical that it is recognised as such. We also know that there are very often serious consequences of failing to intervene and protect children who go missing, including sexual exploitation, physical abuse and being forced to beg or steal to survive. 

Over the past few months, we have supported two parliamentary groups – the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, and the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers – as they conducted a joint inquiry into the safeguarding of children in care who run away or go missing.

New report, sound recommendations

Today, a startling report with the inquiry’s findings and recommendations has been launched. I wholeheartedly support these recommendations and believe that they could make a real impact on the lives of vulnerable children who go missing from care.

Some of the recommendations are long-term. They include an independent investigation into children's homes or introducing a local authority performance ‘score card’ to measure how well they safeguard children going missing from care.

I am particularly pleased to see that there are actions in the report that can be taken immediately to keep young people safe. They include allowing Ofsted to share information about children’s homes with the police and that return interviews are made mandatory as a response to children going missing from care.

The government acknowledges the severity of the issue

It was great to see so many people and organisations contribute to this inquiry by sitting on the panel, giving evidence to the inquiry or supporting young people as they shared their experiences. I am grateful to staff from our programmes, including SCARPA, Lancashire Children’s Rights, the LEAP programme, The Children’s Society in Birmingham and the Black Country, West Midlands Refugee Project, Check Point and The Children’s Society in Manchester for their time and effort in contributing to the inquiry.

I am also very grateful to the brave young people from our projects who gave evidence to the inquiry. What they said was very powerful and made a real impact on the panellists. Thank you.

In response to the inquiry, the children’s minister Tim Loughton has acknowledged that the system of how vulnerable children who go missing from care needs urgent reform. This is very welcome and I look forward to seeing what action will be out in place in the forthcoming days and weeks ahead.

It is simply unacceptable that some of this country’s most vulnerable children are being let down by the very systems that should be there to protect them. The Children’s Society wants to see a strong, genuine safety net in place in every part of the country, for every child who goes missing or runs away.

By Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society

By Matthew Reed - Leadership team

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