under 16s run away from home, school or education every year
children and young people supported by our Runaways team in 2017
of Runaways cases are suspected to be involved in County Lines
Helping runaway children & young people
A child runs away from home or care every five minutes – and it is often a sign that something is seriously wrong. We provide support to children, young people and their caregivers to prevent it from happening again. Most of the young people we work with are in care or on the edge of the care system.
Reducing the number of young runaways in London
When children return from being missing, they can be reluctant to speak to anyone official. They worry they might get in trouble for running away, even though the adults around them just want to make sure they are safe and unhurt.
That’s where St Christopher’s Runaways Service steps in. Because we are a neutral party, young people feel more comfortable talking to us and sharing the reasons why they ran away. We conduct an Independent Return Home Interview to find out any harm they suffered whilst absent and identify any on-going risks to their well-being.
Then we provide independent face-to-face support and put an action plan in place. Our thought-out approach helps young people to stay safe, reduce their risk of harm and ensure they never feel desperate enough to run away again.
'They make me feel confident to say no. Before I would go along with stuff because I felt like I needed to. Then I got comfy in the home and didn't need to do that stuff.'
Why do children run away from home, care or education?
There are lots of reasons why young people run away. Sometimes young people are facing problems with their caregivers, or maybe they are being groomed by gangs to sell drugs or are being sexually exploited. They can be threatened with violence if they do not go along with whatever the perpetrators ask them to do.
Recently we have worked with many young people caught up in ‘County Lines’, where gangs exploit young people to sell class A drugs. They send teenagers to rural towns to act as drug mules, and threaten them and their families with violence if they try to break away.
Usually young people do not recognise that they are being exploited. They feel scared and want a way out, so they think running away is their only option. The danger is clear to see, but they do not know how to protect themselves.
With our help we can make sure a young person and their family receive the right support to keep them safe.
This project was possible thanks to the support of Oak Foundation.