Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Child in care: 'It shouldn't take running away to get your problems sorted'

The Running away report published today by Roger Morgan documents the views of children living in care and asks why they ran away. As well as this, children in care were asked what they thought the dangers of running away were and what could be done to prevent them running.

When we asked children why they ran away they told us they did so for a variety of reasons. These included problems with relationships, wanting to change placements, or wanting to escape from stress and take time out to think things through and calm down.

Children’s Rights Director for England, Roger Morgan said:

'There has been a lot of concern lately in the media, in government and local councils about the risks children face if they run away and I am reporting children’s own views and experiences to councils and the Government.

The answers to many of our questions often produced the same answer - that for some children running away was the only solution to escape something they couldn’t cope with.

Some children realised the dangers of running but others did not. Realising the dangers put some children off running away but for many the pressure overrides the worry of danger.

While some children said that if they knew about all the risks of running away they might not run, the experience of others was that it can be so important to get away that you didn’t think about the risk. One child in care said: “To some people, knowing the risks would not matter because they need to get away.'

Children identified many dangers from running away. Every group we met told us about the dangers of getting raped, being sexually exploited, being stabbed, being kidnapped, being taken and trafficked for sex, being murdered, getting involved in drugs or being made pregnant.

If children are not coping with things in their care placement, and this was not dealt with and children and young adults were not listened to, we heard that children can run away and keep running until this problem was solved.

The best way to prevent children and young people from running away from a placement where they couldn’t cope with problems was for staff to ask and listen to their problems and try to solve them. Even if this meant a change of placement, it was better to talk through problems before the child felt the need to run away. If they had run away, it was vital that the child could discuss any problems after coming back - with a person they trusted and when they felt ready to do so.

Lastly, we asked children to tell us if they had any last messages to be included in the report. They gave advice for others considering running away, including remembering to charge your phone and looking at street names so you would not get lost.  

On the core message that sorting out problems is the main countermeasure to running away, two young people said: 'Compromise, give us freedom and we won’t run away,' and another said, 'It shouldn’t take running to get your problems sorted.'

Notes to Editors:

1.    This report contains the views given by children and young people in discussion groups. These views do not include the views of the Children’s Rights Director or the views of others and comments have not been added either.

2.    Altogether, 98 children and young people in care took part in this survey, where the Office of the Children’s Rights Director asked open questions with no suggested answers.

3.    The Office of the Children’s Rights Director is hosted by Ofsted, but works independently of Ofsted under the personal statutory functions of the Children’s Rights Director. The Government plans to merge the functions of the Children’s Rights Director into those of a revised Children’s Commissioner in 2014, preserving all the current functions of the Office of the Children’s Rights Director.

4.    The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills (Ofsted) regulates and inspects to achieve excellence in the care of children and young people, and in education and skills for learners of all ages. It regulates and inspects childcare and children's social care, and inspects the Children and Family Court Advisory Support Service (Cafcass), schools, colleges, initial teacher training, work-based learning and skills training, adult and community learning, and education and training in prisons and other secure establishments. It assesses council children’s services, and inspects services for looked after children, safeguarding and child protection.

5.    Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 020 7421 6899 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.30pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.

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