Thousands of vulnerable children pass through UK railway stations every day. Most of us wouldn’t even spot that they were in danger.
Children and young people regard railway stations as a place to go to instead of home or a place to hide, they will use trains sometimes as a means to escape, a way to run away or sometimes to meet new people.
These vulnerable children face dangerous risks such as child sexual exploitation, trafficking and drug running. Perpetrators are determined and skilled at seeking out and befriending and grooming young vulnerable people who will then be subjected to exploitation and abuse.
Children run away to escape serious problems at home such as violence, abuse and neglect.
They also run away because of more common everyday issues: bullying, relationship issues, loneliness and family breakdown.
The problems children face on the streets are often worse than those they were running away from in the first place.
Violence, sexual abuse and exploitation are common. Drugs often become an escape from the horrific daily realities of life.
To improve the situation for children who run away in the UK and really make a lasting difference to their lives, we need to go further than helping the children living on the streets right now to be safe and fed tonight. We need to raise public awareness of their existence and persuade the UK government to create better protection and care for them in the long-term.
At street level we work to meet the immediate needs of children at risk on the streets. It’s crucial to reach children and young people before they become entrenched in street life, when the risks and dangers increase and they become more difficult to help.
Intervening early to address a vulnerable child’s issues, reduces the risk of repeat cycles of risky and possibly criminal behaviour, and improves their life chances.More Street Level work
At community level we work to make children on the streets visible to society. We help people to understand the issues that cause children to run away and the risks and dangers they face. In the UK, many people find it difficult to believe that there are children at risk on the streets, and raising public awareness is a vital part of our work.
We can reach many more children with the help of communities. With the support of our partners in the rail industry, we are also creating a national safety network to protect vulnerable children on and around the UK's transport system. We recently launched a PSHE quality-assured Runaway Prevention Education Pack that can be delivered by teachers or those working with young people.More Community Level work
At government level we work to persuade policy makers that children at risk on the streets should be higher priority on the political agenda and that the UK government’s policies should provide greater protection for them.
Our Safeguarding on Transport (ST) programme was developed in partnership with British Transport Police by request of the Secretary of State for Transport, and we work closely with the Department for Transport.
We are also a member of the Home Office expert panel group on missing children and adults to influence policy affecting children on the streets.More Government Level work