One of only three refuges for young runaways in the UK is in danger of closing after councils in London halted their funding.
Staff at the London Refuge Centre, which takes care of up to 250 of the UK’s 100,000 young runaways each year and is the only registered safe house in the capital, say the shelter’s future is in the balance.
“After March we will be imminently in danger of closing,” said Keith Francis, business director of the St Christopher’s Fellowship, which runs the centre in partnership with the NSPCC.
Francis said councils would now deal with young runaways in their own boroughs through arrangements such as emergency foster care. But Francis said this was “insufficient” and would fail to deal with the reasons why young people run away.
Wes Cuell, director of services for children and families at the NSPCC, said: “The NSPCC has given considerable support to the London Refuge Centre since its opening in 1993. A number of agencies have been involved in the work of the refuge and we have tried hard to find others willing to provide the long-term funding needed to secure its future. We regret the project may now have to close.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said the Association of London Directors of Children’s Services had assured the government that they would be able to deliver emergency accommodation to all young people that needed it through their existing systems.
“But we do want to make sure that the closure of the London Refuge Centre does not leave a wider gap in provision for young runaways in London,” the spokesperson added.
“If a gap is identified, the DCSF will offer up to £100,000 in support towards the costs of developing a service that meets that need and can demonstrate its sustainability. St Christopher’s would be able to bid for that money as would other organisations.”