A major campaign to establish a national network of government-funded refuges for young runaways has been launched by the Children’s Society.
The drive comes as the charity reveals that, of 11,000 young runaways surveyed, one in twelve said they were hurt or harmed while away from home.
Charity chief executive Bob Reitemeier said current provisions for the estimated 100,000 children who ran away from home every year were a matter of “deep concern” and needed to be urgently addressed.
The charity claims there are only 10 beds available in three refuges across the UK, with just one of those receiving government funding.
The problem is exacerbated by the number of young runaways who fall beneath the official radar, with only a third of those surveyed saying their parents or carers reported them missing to the police.
Although local authorities are legally obliged to support young runaways, the Children’s Society said services on the ground were often “patchy or non-existent”, with children calling helplines such as the Runaway Helpline often being told there was nowhere for them to go.
The campaign, which is being backed by the Association of Chief Police Officers, the NSPCC, the Aberlour Childcare Trust, London Refuge and Runaway Helpline, wants to see refuges providing 24 hour access for children in both cities and rural areas.