Runaways and missing children bill to be introduced in parliament

A bill highlighting the need for a national system for safeguarding runaway and missing children is being introduced into parliament.

Helen Southworth, MP for Warrington South is putting forward a 10-minute rule bill advocating better collecting and reporting of information and co-ordination between local authorities and other bodies.

While 10-minute rule bills, a form of private members bill, do not usually progress into legislation, they are used to make a point on the need to change the law on a particular subject.

The bill is expected to be introduced on 15 November.

The move follows a campaign by the Children’s Society raising awareness of the estimated 100,000 children who run away and go missing every year.

Patricia Durr, parliamentary adviser at the Children’s Society, said organisations were concerned that information was not collected centrally and pointed to the need for national co-ordination.

Earlier this year, in response to a parliamentary question asked by Southworth on how many children were reported to the police as missing from home last year, home office minister Hazel Blears admitted that the home office did not collect the information.

“Currently, responsibility for collecting information on runaway and missing children is devolved to local authorities and local police. There needs to be more tracking of children who cross local authority boundaries and the information needs to be held centrally,” Durr said.

Durr also identified the need for more refuge provision. There are currently only 10 bed spaces across 3 locations in the UK for runaway and missing children.

Over 200 MPs have so far signed an early day motion calling on the government to ensure greater safeguards for young runaways.

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