National strategy needed to reduce risk for runaway children

A government minister must take responsibility for runaway children and drive a national strategy to improve support for children at risk on the streets in the UK it has been agreed.

At a roundtable event in parliament which included Anne Coffey, chair of the all-party group on runaway and missing children; Andy McCullough, policy officer at charity Railway Children; and Richard Brooks, strategy director at Ofsted, the pressures facing children on the streets were debated.

Cuts to housing, police, health, social services and specialist frontline workers are putting children at greater risk, the group said.

Brooks said: “Local authorities just do not know who is missing from education in their area. The issue of knowing where children are is fundamental to ensuring their safety.”

To improve the response for young runaways the group agreed that ministerial support will be needed to increase information-sharing and partnership between the police, councils, schools and the voluntary sector.

Coffey, MP for Stockport, said: “The needs of missing children and young runaways are so complex and varied that services must be geared to wrap around the individual child and should be at the heart of this government’s safeguarding agenda.”

As well as a government minister responsible for runaway children, the group urged for there to be greater partnership between frontline services and improvements in local collection and sharing of data on young runaways.

McCullough said: “Government responsibility for what happens at the local level is critical. Failure to reach in time vulnerable children who run away will be a tragic consequence of hamstrung children’s services perpetuat