'No-one runs away for no reason': understanding safeguarding issues when children and young people go missing from home

Louise Hill, Julie Taylor, Fiona Richards, Susan Reddington

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An estimated one in nine children will run away from home or substitute care before their 16th birthday in the UK. This paper explores the safeguarding concerns and responses for children and young people who run away or go missing from home. The majority of children and young people run away from home due to family relationship problems. Running away or being physically absent from home may be due to abuse and neglect. One in 11 children reported being hurt or harmed whilst running away. For some young people, 'running to' a person or situation can present many risks and can be part of a coercive and exploitative relationship. Despite these multiple indicators of risk, there has been little focus on safeguarding policies and practice for children and young people who run away from home. Drawing on a case example of a third-sector service using Return Interview Assessments, this paper argues that professionals must ensure that all children and young people who run away or go missing from home are given meaningful opportunities to be listened to, and taken seriously, in order to ensure that a wide range of safeguarding concerns can be addressed. 

Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Abuse Review
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • child abuse
  • missing children
  • child neglect
  • young runaways

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