Minister for children Kevin Brennan (right) today unveiled a new cross-government working group to look at what can be done to reduce the number of children and young people who run away from home.
The working group will be responsible for reviewing local authority emergency accommodation and beefing up statutory guidance on runaway and missing children under the age of 16. An action plan will also be published by June this year to “drive forward” prevention and support services.
Speaking at a launch event in Whitehall, Brennan was presented with a petition of support in the form of a giant running shoe signed by more than 100 MPs. He said: “We’ve come a long way in improving our response to vulnerable young people, but more still needs to be done specifically to tackle the problem of young runaways.”
Children’s secretary Ed Balls (right) also gave the initiative his support. He said: “One runaway is one too many and I am determined that every child should have a place where they can feel safe and cared for.”
The announcement comes after intense lobbying by a coalition of 30 children’s charities and a nine-month consultation led by The Children’s Society. The charity has been working closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and is pushing for the creation of a “national safety net” for the estimated 86,000 runaways under the age of 16. Chief executive Bob Reitemeier said: “Many of these young people who end up on the streets, some as young as seven, are exposed to abuse and exploitation. We can now finally say that these children are a priority in our society.”
Chair of the English Coalition for Young Runaways Andy McCullough added: “We feel strongly that this is a giant step in the right direction.”