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Missing Children

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills if he will take steps to collect and publish information on the support services available to children who run away or go missing from care or home in each children’s services area. (80003)

[holding answer 26 June 2006]: Each local authority, through their children’s services authority arrangements, is required by the Every Child Matters: Change for Children programme to set up an accessible children’s services directory, including information on services for vulnerable young people such as those who run away or go missing. Local authorities must also produce a Children and Young People Plan setting out how services, including those for vulnerable young people, will operate. Such services are for local authorities to determine, in partnership with the relevant stakeholders in their area, according to local need.

Many local authorities have already placed their service directories on their existing website, while others have created new sites, giving them easy-to-find titles appropriate to local community circumstances (e.g. Help4me.info in Cheshire and Merseyside).

In 2005 the Department commissioned research by the National Family and Parenting Institute to look at how local authorities were linking up their directories. From those who took part, we have compiled a list of local authority children’s services web links. These are available on the Every Child Matters website. However, my Department has no other current plans to collect and publish information nationally on what specific services operate in every area.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what progress has been made in giving teachers more support online on how they can help prevent running away; and if he will ensure that the schools pack produced following the Social Exclusion Unit report on running away is available online. (80004)

[holding answer 26 June 2006]: The schools pack referred to was developed by Shelter and Connexions, and launched by the Department in 2004. It is available via the teachernet website (teachemet.gov.uk) and Shelter's own website. Shelter also produced a pack for personal social and health education (PSHE) teachers: “Talk before you walk", which is available via their website.

Opportunity exists within the current PSHE and citizenship frameworks for schools to explore issues to do with recognising and managing risks involved in running away. The Department is however not prescriptive with schools about what issues they must explore, what resources they must use, or how they should access them, to achieve the learning objectives set out within those frameworks.

DfES has also run six development projects to test out community-based responses. When we disseminate the lessons learnt so far from these later this year, this will include information, materials and support models from work with schools in the pilot areas.