Call for Government action to help young runaways

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YOUNG runaways in South Yorkshire fare better than others across the country, claims a charity.

As a new report by The Children’s Society claims that professionals are failing most young runaways, Rotherham-based charity SAFE@LAST underlines their need for support.

The report, Still Running 3, says that one in five child runaways have begged, stolen or done ‘other things’ to survive and that one in nine was hurt or harmed on the last occasion they ran.

Research by the Children’s Society shows that teachers, social workers and other professionals are not stepping in and supporting the vast majority of young runaways.

Around two-thirds of these children are not ‘visible’ to professionals and seven in 10 runaways were not reported missing to police the last time they ran away.

But in South Yorkshire, young people at risk do have services provided by SAFE@LAST, including a 24 hour helpline, ongoing one-to-one support and an emergency refuge – the only one in England.

SAFE@LAST works in partnership with South Yorkshire Police on the MISPER (Missing Persons) scheme. The charity offers return interviews and ongoing support to around 1600 young runaways each year.

Supt. Eddie Murphy of South Yorkshire Police said “Supporting vulnerable children is an important issue for South Yorkshire Police. In addition to the MISPER scheme, through the county’s Lifewise Centre we run a series of targeted youth support interventions which aim to teach children about a range of potential dangers and issues which can often escalate if they run away from home”.

SAFE@LAST Strategic Runaway Services Director Tracy Haycox said “SAFE@LAST works with young people who are 16 and under but the majority of our one to one work is with young people aged thirteen to fifteen.

“However we do also receive referrals and helpline calls from much younger children. The youngest caller on the helpline was only seven”.

SAFE@LAST and South Yorkshire Police fully support a call by the Children’s Society for the government to draw up a national runaways’ action plan, to ‘significantly boost help and support’.