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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 07:04 GMT 08:04 UK
Call to boost runaways support
Rough sleepers
Some young runaways end up sleeping on the streets
A coalition of charities is urging the government to set up a national support network for young people who run away.

MPs are being asked to sign a petition in the shape of a giant running shoe, representing the estimated 140,000 under-18s who go missing each year.

Specialists are to give evidence at a series of Parliamentary hearings to highlight the problems runaways face.

The Children's Society said it should be recognised that a teenager facing a night on the streets was a high risk.

Kathy Evans, policy director at the Children's Society, said some local services were in place but it was nowhere near a national safety net.

When you run away, it's hard to trust people
Jessica Lee, former runaway

She told BBC Breakfast there needed to be local services, a national helpline and a look at the way police respond when a child is reported missing and what happens when they are found.

Jessica Lee, who ran away from home at 13, told the programme she did not know who to turn to for help.

"Things were really difficult at home so I ran away," she said.

For three months, she stayed with her dad who she met for the first time, friends, sometimes strangers and even spent one night on the street before she found help.

"It got to the point where it became an addiction to me," she said.

"For me, social services, and anyone in authority, was the enemy. But I found out about a Children's Society project in Devon. They built the trust up with me. When you run away, it's hard to trust people."

'Life-saver service'

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Missing People, said the issue of missing people often slipped through the cracks and off the public agenda.

"The national infrastructure to safeguard runaways and missing children at the moment is, in actual fact, fairly small, which might come as a surprise to most people," he said.

In some cases, things were so bad for these children that it led to fatalities, he said.

"We've really got to put it in front of the public agenda for our MPs...that the runaway helpline, the national service we offer, is actually a life-saver service."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
A former runaway explains how she is helping troubled youths



SEE ALSO
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