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More than 300 child runaways reported

By Katia Harston, Chief Reporter Tuesday 12th February 2013

More than 300 reports of children going missing or running away in Barnsley were made in one year, the Chronicle has learned.


South Yorkshire charity Safe@Last, which offers help to children who run away from home or care, dealt with 308 referrals to its missing persons project between April 2011 and March last year.


Reports were not just made by parents and carers but also by South Yorkshire Police, schools and social services.


The charity cannot say how many children were found and returned home because the data is still being compiled, but says it is likely that many of the cases are children who run away repeatedly.


Tracy Haycox, director of children and young people's services for Safe@Last, said 34 per cent of reports were for boys and 66 per cent for girls.


But she said since the charity was set up in 2007 it has worked with teenage boys as well as girls, and children as young as ten or 11.


Tracy said Barnsley is 'not much different' to other towns in South Yorkshire when it comes to reported runaways.


"In terms of the number of referrals made, some of them will be young people that repeat run on a regular basis and choose to live their lives that way.


"The majority of young people reported missing or runaway in Barnsley that we work with do tend to be teenage girls.


"The main reason why young people run away is through some sort of relationship breakdown or a knee-jerk reaction to a situation, such as falling out with a parent or step-parent, or they are not where they want to be.


"Sometimes it is not even reported to the police and a child can be missing and no-one knows about it.


"A major concern is that many of the young people we work with do not realise the dangers they are placing themselves in (by running away) until it's too late.


"But by taking the time to build up a positive relationship with them and their families, we gain their trust and, often for the first time, they open up and talk about their problems. This makes it possible to work out much more quickly what support they really need."

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