A quarter of child runaways (26 per cent) have been the victim of a harmful or dangerous experience, reveals shocking new research from The Children’s Society.
Still Running 3 (full text, summary), the first comprehensive picture of running away for under 16s for six years, also shows that one in five child runaways have begged, stolen or done 'other things' to survive.
One in nine (11 per cent) was hurt or harmed on the last occasion they ran. One in six (18 per cent) children said they had slept rough, or stayed with, someone they had just met.
Yet 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.
The research also exposes, for the first time, that there is a very strong link between family relationships and running away. Children who have experienced family change are more than three times as likely to have run away in the past year as those who have not.
Children who have experienced high family conflict are around six times as likely to have run away in the past year.
Seven in ten runaways were not reported missing to police the last time they ran away. A quarter of child runaways were forced to leave home. 
Overall, one child runs from home or care every five minutes – in England alone, 84,000 under 16 year olds run away overnight on at least one occasion every year.
Still Running 3 also shows that some children run away ten times or more over the course of their childhood.
Overall, children who have recently run away are almost four times as likely to be unhappy with their lives. Running away is a clear indicator of potential longer-term problems – the need for early intervention is compelling.
The Children’s Society Chief Executive Bob Reitemeier said: 'We are deeply concerned that tens of thousands of children are still running from home or care. Huge numbers are putting themselves in very dangerous situations. One child in this situation is one child too many.
'Some children are so desperate that they steal, turn to drugs or alcohol or are abused by adults who groom them. Too often they are alone and desperate for help.
'We have shown that arguments and other family conflict play a massive part in a child’s decision to run. Poor quality family relationships and neglectful parenting are making children and young people feel helpless. Everybody has a part to play in making runaways safe.
'Never has the need for a national safety net of help for young runaways been greater. We urge the government and other professionals to put this issue to the top of their priority lists.'
Still Running 3 findings also include:
The Children’s Society is calling on central Government to create a national safety net for child runaways, including creating a national action plan for runaways.
Media enquiries, case studies and interviews
Extensive case studies and spokespeople are available for interview. Please call The Children’s Society media team on 020 7841 4422 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Out-of-hours: 07810 796 508.
Notes to Editor
: This figure is from Still Running 2, 2005