We work with children who run away from home or care because of conflict, abuse or neglect

young boy sitting at a table

Our research shows that every year 100,000 children run away from home or care. Running away is a key indicator that something is wrong in a child’s life. Many are forced to leave their homes or care placement.

When a child runs away they are at risk of serious harm, such as sexual exploitation and physical abuse. They often have to resort to highly dangerous survival strategies such as stealing or begging to survive and staying with strangers.

Running away or going missing is an early indicator of child sexual exploitation. As many as 70% of children who are sexually exploited go missing. No official data exists on children who have been sexually exploited but in 2011 2,083 victims of child sexual exploitation were reported and as many as 16,500 children were thought to be at high risk of sexual exploitation.

One of the best ways to ensure children are protected from harm and receive the right support is to listen to their views. An independent advocate can help children to express their views and participate in decisions about their lives. Although the right to be supported by an advocate is included in statutory guidance, our research shows that one third of local authorities do not report any spending on this service. We are lobbying for children in care, disabled children and children who are at risk of running away or sexual exploitation to have access to an independent advocate.

Our policy team works to lobby and influence decision makers to ensure that children at risk are identified as early as possible and given the support they need to move on with their life. Our Make Runaways Safe campaign seeks to ensure all children who run away are provided with a safety net.

Our main policy priorities are:

Parliamentary work

We are the joint Secretariat for the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults with Missing People UK. To receive information about the APPG and its events, please contact us.  

Read about the APPG's inquiry into children who go missing from care or read parliamentary briefings on related issues.

Learn more and take action