A campaign by children’s rights charity NYAS (National Youth Advocacy Service) has directly influenced the outcome of a major parliamentary inquiry into the risks facing children and young people who go missing from out of area care placements.
In its ‘No Place at Home‘ report released today, the APPG (All-Party Parliamentary Group) for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults sets out a list of urgent recommendations to government, aimed at addressing the ‘national scandal’ of ‘sent away’ children.
The inquiry has found that local councils are unwittingly acting as ‘recruiting sergeants’ for County Lines drugs gangs by sending vulnerable children to live miles away from home – with evidence suggesting that thousands of children are being put at risk by being moved to children’s homes up to 100 miles from where they live.
Key recommendations in the No Place at Home Report include an Emergency Action Plan from the Department of Education to slash the numbers of out of area placements, recognising that they are not keeping children safe. The report also demands that the decision to place a child out of area should be supported by evidence to demonstrate that the decision is for the child’s safety and that a new requirement be placed on children’s services to demonstrate that children and young people have been consulted in advance.
In regard to return interviews, the report stipulates that councils should ensure there is an independent return home interview service for children in out of area placements to help understand the issues at play when children are running away.
It also urges the Department for Education and the Home Office to develop a cross-departmental strategy on tackling Child Criminal Exploitation and County lines, focused on the risks to looked after children placed out of area.
The recommendations it sets out to tackle the issue clearly reflect the demands of NYAS’ Missing the Point campaign, which calls for changes to government and local council policies to reduce the risk of harm to children who may go missing from care.
NYAS submitted detailed written evidence to the APPG and participated in parliamentary meetings to help ensure the experiences and views of children and young people were at the centre of the inquiry. The charity conducts thousands of return interviews each year for children who go missing from care and has found that, in the majority of missing from care cases a ‘breakdown in communication’ is the key factor pushing a child to go missing.
NYAS Head of Policy and Research Ben Twomey said, “Seeing our own campaign recommendations reflected in the APPG report shows that the children and young people we work with are finally being taken seriously. We very much welcome the inquiry’s findings and its call to action, which we hope will lead to a far-reaching change in policy, in the interests of the thousands of vulnerable children and young people who are being let down by the system each year.
“It’s clear to NYAS that the success of this inquiry and any new measures introduced as a result of it will rely on listening and responding to the needs of the children who are at risk.
“Ultimately, NYAS wants to make sure that authorities work with children to keep them safe from serious harm. We will continue to campaign for change – particularly with regard to the criminalisation of children who go missing from out of area placements, so that the issue is central to any future cross-departmental approach.”