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Tackling young runaways: a role for everyone

Tackling young runaways: a role for everyone

DEPARTMENT FOR CHILDREN, SCHOOLS AND FAMILIES News Release (2008/0114) issued by The Government News Network on 16 June 2008

Local Authorities must gather information about young people who run away from home or care to ensure that the right services are in place to help, Minister for Young People Kevin Brennan said today at the launch of the Government's Young Runaways Action Plan.

Speaking at an event with the English Coalition of Runaway Children, MPs and key stakeholders in Downing Street, Kevin Brennan set out clear expectations regarding the level of service and support that local agencies should be providing for young runaways. In particular they should:

* Identify those at risk of running away as part of their targeted youth support arrangements;

* Have arrangements in place to help young people who have run away, particularly out of hours, keeping them safe and off the streets;

* Conduct a return interview for every young person, identifying and addressing their reasons for running away;

* Work closely with the voluntary sector, clearly defining roles and responsibilities and ensure there is support for young people that spans across local area borders;

* Evaluate the local need for and provision of emergency accommodation for young runaways;

* Gather information on running away to inform the level of support locally, and to support the new national indicator.

The Action Plan explores some of the underlying causes of running away as well as setting out the important role that key partners such as the police, local government, voluntary sector and children's services play in helping us to deliver long term improvements for young runaways.

The Government is already taking steps to ensure that children and young people know where they can access help if they are thinking of running away, and what alternatives are open to them:

* Resources are being developed for use in schools and youth centres to educate young people about the risks of running away, and to point them to the support available if they are thinking about running;

* A review of emergency accommodation provision is underway, to ensure young runaways have somewhere safe to stay; and

* The Missing from Care and Home guidance is being reviewed to ensure a joined up approach with other guidance on missing from education, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

Children's Secretary Ed Balls said:

"Identifying young people who may be at risk of running, and providing the support they need to face their problems is critical to keeping young people safe.

"Today's action plan is a clear demonstration that we remain committed to helping young runaways and I would like to thank all those who have been involved in its development."

Kevin Brennan said:

"I want every child and young person to enjoy a happy, healthy and safe childhood that prepares them for adult life. While we know that this is the case for the majority of our young people, there are still some for whom this is not a reality and who don't feel safe at home.

"That is why it is vital that we work together to spot the warning signs, and make sure that young people get the help they need to resolve their problems before they decide to run. But equally, if a young person does run away, we need to respond quickly with services in place to keep them safe and off the streets."

Children in care are particularly vulnerable and are three times more likely to runaway, often to be closer to friends and family. The Children and Young Persons Bill will require that as far as is reasonably practicable that a placement allows the child to live near their home; does not disrupt their education; and is within the local authority's area, reducing the risk of children running away.

To further support children in care, Kevin Brennan also announced today that 10 local authorities would get a share of almost £5 million to help children stay in care beyond the age of 18. The Staying Put pilots will give children in care the chance to benefit from a stable family placement so that they only move to independent living when they feel properly prepared and ready. This will allow children in care to make the transition to adulthood in a more gradual way, just like other young people who rely on their families for this type of support.

Andy McCullough, Chair of the English Coalition for Young Runaways, said:

"These plans are the culmination of a lot of hard work between all of the key players. It is incredibly positive and proof that the government is serious about protecting this vulnerable group of children. However we will need to deliver on this action plan if we are to ensure a safe future for children who feel they have no other choice but to run away."

The commitment and support of partners has been central to the development of the action plan.

NOTES TO EDITORS

1. The Young Runaways Action Plan is available on the DCSF website at: http://www.dcsf.gov.uk/publications/

2. The Government outlined its commitment to improving support for young runaways in January 2008 when it set up a cross-Government working group to drive progress.

3. The Children's Secretary Ed Balls has Cabinet level responsibility for runaways and, led by Kevin Brennan, DCSF has taken the lead in co-ordinating policy developments across Government to ensure appropriate services are in place to respond to the needs of those who run.

4. The Government has a responsibility to safeguard the young and vulnerable and Chapter 2 of the Children's Plan - Safe and Sound - sets out our vision for making children's safety everyone's responsibility.

5. The Staying Safe Action Plan (February 2008) built on the Children's Plan commitments, giving more detail on what we will do to ensure children and young people are, and feel, safe. The Staying Safe Action Plan is underpinned by a Public Service Agreement to improve children and young people's safety which will drive forward work in this area and ensure that effectiveness of the policies is monitored at a national level.

6. The Staying Put pilots were first set out in the Care Matters Green Paper and later confirmed in the White Paper, Care Matters: Time for Change.

The Care Matters: Time for Change White Paper sets out the steps the Department will take, together with local delivery partners, to improve outcomes for children and young people in care.

The successful authorities are: Bristol; Cheshire; Dorset; Lincolnshire; Merton; Northamptonshire; North Tyneside; North Yorkshire; Warwickshire and York.

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