Children's Society warns over young runaways

Teenage girl (Copyright Lawrence Dutton. Image modelled for the Children's Society) Thousands of children run away from home each year (Image modelled for the Children's Society)

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Only a small proportion of the tens of thousands of children who run away each year are reported to police as missing, a report suggests.

Some 84,000 under 16-year-olds ran away overnight on at least one occasion every year in England, the study for the Children's Society has found.

Only 17% of runaways said they were reported to the police as missing.

The charity urged the government to make the plight of runaway children a top priority.

The report is based on research with children aged 14 to 15 years old in schools across England.

The charity says one child runs away from home or care every five minutes.

The report found children who had experienced family change and conflict over the past year were three times as likely to run away as those who had not.

Dangerous situations

A quarter of runaways were at "high risk" of harm as they may be hurt, sleep rough or beg and steal to survive, but only 5% of runaways sought help from agencies such as the police and social services.

The report's authors said parents might not report runaway children as missing to the police because they knew where they were and felt they were safe - or might also reject police involvement, it said.

A "significant proportion" of young runaways had been told to leave home by their parents.

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.

"Everybody has a part to play in making runaways safe."

The Department for Education said: "Runaways typically face very complex issues.

"Local authorities are responsible for targeted support for families with complex needs and young people at risk of substance misuse, youth crime and teenage pregnancies - which can be the root causes and consequences of running away."

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