Statistics on the numbers of all children who are reported as having run away or missing are not collected centrally. The Children's Society estimates that each year in the UK 100,000 children run away or are forced to leave home to escape problems.
The Home Office has been working with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Missing Persons Helpline to establish joint working arrangements to improve the recording, sharing and exchange of information, to improve the way in which missing persons are dealt with, and to inform our understanding of the problem in order to develop strategies to address it. Part of this work includes establishment of a comprehensive national police database of missing and unidentified people reported either to the police or the helpline.
[holding answer 18 June 2006]: Schools’ core business is teaching and learning, but teachers themselves recognise that to achieve the best results they must supplement their focus on teaching and learning with appropriate additional support, and work with other professional agencies to remove barriers to achievement. The Every Child Matters reforms will help them do this by enabling schools to link in with wider children's services, and access their expertise and experience. This is particularly useful in helping schools respond to the needs of more vulnerable young people, such as those who may run away. In addition, the Every Child Matters: Change for Children programme is improving integrated working at the local level along with enhanced information sharing between children's services leading to earlier identification of young people's needs.
More broadly, there exist opportunities within the current curriculum, under PSHE and Citizenship Frameworks, for schools to explore issues to do with recognising and managing risks (i.e. if you run away, what risks would you face); understanding emotions and strategies for dealing with stress; the importance of family and stable relationships; and knowing where to get help. We are not prescriptive with schools about what issues schools explore to achieve the learning objectives set out within the frameworks, and local need determines local provision.
In addition, DfES has run 6 development projects to test out how best to provide safe, flexible and responsive community-based services that can be easily incorporated into mainstream children's services. When we disseminate the lessons learnt so far from these, later this year, they will include information, materials and support models from work with schools in the pilot areas.