DCSF: Councils face new duties to support runaways

Local authorities have been told to do more to protect and support young people who run away from home in a series of measures announced today by junior children’s minister Delyth Morgan.

New statutory guidance issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families calls on local authorities to provide a named person responsible for runaways. In addition they will be required to set up out-of-hours services and effective emergency accommodation.

Services will be co-ordinated with agencies such as the police and voluntary sector organisations across local authority boundaries.

Return interviews required

Councils will also be required to work with runaways’ families and to set up “return interviews” between young people and an independent person they trust in order to find out why they chose to leave in the first place. 

The guidance links in to a “missing from home and care” national indicator launched last April, which requires councils to assess whether systems are in place locally to identify the number of runaways and whether appropriate services are available to meet their needs.

The DCSF announced last year that it would be implementing a runaways plan following pressure from a coalition of charities led by the Children’s Society, which found that just 12% of local authorities had services in place for young runaways.

Falling through the gaps

Morgan said: “While it’s vital that we do more to reduce the number of young people who run away from care, young people who run away from home can fall through the gaps. We want to ensure they come to the notice of the authorities as quickly as possible and are given the help they so often need.

“We are also looking at the level and different types of emergency accommodation available across the country and we will carefully consider the outcomes of the emergency accommodation review when it is published later this year.”

‘Significant steps’

Andy McCullough, chair of the English Coalition for Runaway Children, welcomed the new guidance. He said: “This is a step in the right direction. With revised policy, a national indicator and a review of emergency accommodation we take significant steps forward to safeguard vulnerable children and young people that run away.”

An estimated 100,000 children run away from home or care in the UK each year, one in six of whom sleep rough, according to Children’s Society figures.

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