Headlines: November 29th, 2006



Young people end up living on the streets when they feel that overstretched social services departments cannot help them, according to a new report today. The study by the children’s charity NPSCC and St Christopher’s Fellowship also highlights the lack of emergency accommodation available for children who have nowhere else to go and calls for more support for social workers.

The report found that 15 of the 22 young runaways interviewed for the study had been in contact with social services, but said a lack of support had led to their taking desperate measures. They felt that their views were overlooked and they had no influence over the decisions that were made about them and so they took matters into their own hands and ran away.

The two organisations want the system under which children involved in family conflict are protected to be overhauled and they say central government has to commit money to specialist long-term schemes designed to prevent young runaways ending up on the streets where they are at risk from adults who exploit them or involve them in drugs misuse.

Today’s report, called “Beyond Refuge”, focuses on 89 admissions to the London Refuge for Runaway Children, which is the United Kingdom’s only children’s refuge registered under the 1989 Children’s Act. The Refuge manager Janet Glenn-Millanaise said young children were often the focus of professional support but it is essential that the needs and challenges of adolescents were also understood. “Their views must by law be taken into account. Social services are overstretched and under-resourced but when they do not intervene in situations of intense family conflict, there is a real danger teenagers will run away and put themselves at risk on the streets,” she added.

The frustrations felt by the young people are summed up in the study by Jayne, a 15-year-old, who told researchers, “Social services didn’t put me nowhere. If I was younger, they would help. They say they can’t accommodate me because my case isn’t that important.

The NSPCC and St Christopher’s Fellowship are looking for support from Central Government to increase the range of emergency accommodation available to under-16s but they say this must be underpinned by research, training and professional support for social workers and specialist foster carers so they can respond effectively when dealing with a particularly vulnerable group of young people.