Kent County Council signs up to runaways charter

New measures which aim to protect runaway children from harm and exploitation are being adopted by Kent County Council (KCC).

The council has signed up to a runaways charter which has been devised by the charity The Children's Society.

The charter includes guidelines for preventing running away and dealing with incidents as soon as they happen.

Kent Police said 2,117 under-16s were reported missing to them between April 2010 and April 2011.

Lily Carter from The Children's Society said the charity had interviewed several thousand children and young people to find out about what happens when they run away.

"In many cases they were sleeping on someone's sofa but it would often be with someone they'd only just met, probably couldn't trust," she said.

"Young people that we speak to tell us that when they've run away and they've felt it necessary to run away... most them feel they don't have anywhere to turn or don't know where to turn."

Foster care

Ms Carter said by signing up to the charter the county had shown it recognised it was a serious issue.

Councillor Jenny Whittle, KCC's cabinet member for children's services, said: "We're really focusing on the hotspots in the county where children are going missing most frequently - the age range, we know that people aged between 15 and 17 are most likely to go missing.

"And identifying safe places that young people are aware of that they can turn to if they feel that the situation at their children's home, a foster care placement or at home with their parents has become untenable."

KCC said there were 1,267 children in care in Kent who were from outside the county.

The council is calling for new regulations to reduce the distance children should be from their birth families from the current 20-mile limit.

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