Children’s charity Barnardo’s has criticised the absence of
specific recommendations on the risk of sexual exploitation in a
new report on helping young runaways.
Although the children’s charity broadly welcomed the report, it has
warned that specialist expertise is needed to move vulnerable
children away from adults who exploit them.
Barnardo’s is also concerned that the government’s teenagers advice
initiative, Connexions, is being enlisted to help young runaways,
as abused children are the most likely to reject help from
Principal policy officer Pam Hibbert said: “We would like to see
specific recommendations for these children acknowledging the need
for specialist input and the role of the voluntary sector.”
The report was published last week by the government’s social
exclusion unit. But Hibbert criticised the decision not to
implement the measures contained in the report until 2004.
Although the report draws heavily on research on young runaways
conducted by the Children’s Society in 1999, it fails to address
its finding that prostitution is one of the key risks for young
people on the street.
Patricia Durr, parliamentary liaison officer for the Children’s
Society, said the charity hoped that police, health and social
services would work together to ensure the risk was
“We will be watching to see that this joined-up working does
actually take place,” Durr said.
The report includes measures to help runaways solve their problems
before they reach crisis point, and to provide them with someone to
talk to and somewhere safe to stay.
Follow-up schemes to give young people a chance to talk about their
reasons for running away are also outlined.
But the NSPCC is concerned that there are insufficient checking
procedures to ensure that follow-ups take place.
“The government is rightly saying it wants to prevent repeat
running away, but there are no sanctions in place for local
authorities if [the follow-up schemes] don’t happen,” said NSPCC
policy adviser Natalie Cronin.
She said the £3m fund from the Children and Young People’s
Unit to support more than 25 development projects researching ways
to prevent young people running away would make little
“Young Runaways” from