Today we are launching the Runaways Charter, a clear code for agencies with a duty to protect children who run away or go missing from home and care.
In the wake of high profile cases of exploitation of runaway children, we are launching a campaign calling on all councils in England to sign up to the Runaways Charter and put a safety net in place to protect the 100,000 children who run away every year.
We have found a huge disparity in the amount, and type, of support available for young runaways in different parts of the country. Most local councils don’t have a clear idea of the numbers of children going missing - use our new map to check the situation in your council. Only a tiny fraction of children who run away or go missing - as few as one in 20 - seek out help from agencies and those that do often say they don’t feel protected.
One in six young runaways end up sleeping rough, one in eight resort to begging or stealing to survive and one in 12 are hurt or harmed as a direct result of running away.
The Runaways Charter has been co-written with young former runaways with direct experience of being away from home and taking their chances on the streets, often being put at huge risk and struggling to find effective help.
Matthew Reed, our Chief Executive said:
'Every five minutes a young person runs away from home or care and is at great risk of harm and exploitation. There is no proper safety net to ensure they are protected - this urgently needs to change.
'We urge the local authorities to sign up to our charter and help these vulnerable young children.'
We want every local authority in England to adopt the Runaways Charter, which includes having a set of protocols for preventing running away and dealing with incidents as soon as they happen.
You can use our map to see the situation in your council, then tell your local authority you want them to sign up to the charter.
The charter also asks councils to provide children with information on ‘safe places’ where they can get support and make sure that every professional working with runaways is clear about their role and responsibilities.
In sections written by young former runaways, the Runaways Charter implores agencies and professionals to 'respect us, take us seriously'. Many former runaways say that most of the time they didn’t feel taken seriously – instead they are often picked up, dropped home and called 'time-wasters'.