3rd September 2007


Report available :




Many vulnerable young people across Scotland who run away from home are not getting the help and support they need to keep them safe, a study commissioned by 1 in 9, The Scottish Coalition of Young Runaways, led by Aberlour children’s charity today (Thursday 23 August) reveals.


The study shows that despite detailed guidance from the Scottish Executive in 2003 targeting the needs of young runaways, the majority of local authorities are not providing specific services for these young people who are at risk from harm. In addition inter-agency protocols describing arrangements for supporting and keeping safe young people who run from their own homes only exist in 4 out of the 32 Child Protection Committee areas contacted.


Significantly, the study also revealed that not only was there general confusion about what constituted a runaway, there was no agreed system of recording and collating information about the numbers of children missing from home.  The study highlights the lack of information which can give an up to date and accurate national picture of the runaway problem in Scotland – currently estimated at 9,000 children a year, based on a study carried out in 2001.


There was a good response to the survey with contributions being received from 31 out of the 32 Child Protection Committees approached. However, many of the responses were incomplete and lacked detail – highlighting a lack of information and significant gaps in services available.  Interestingly, only eight of the local authority plans examined referred specifically to ‘young runaways’, with only three providing detailed information about the specific services offered to them. These were:   Aberdeen; East Renfrewshire and Glasgow City.


The Coalition study does show that protocols exist to respond to young people who go missing from residential children’s homes. These procedures include guidance for contacting the police and keeping in touch with families.  Consequently a large proportion of the young people who feature in police missing reports are accommodated.  Proportionately this group only accounts for a small number (about 3.5%) of the total young people who run away and the 96% who run from home are only covered by protocols in 4 local authority areas. 


Concern was raised about the number of young people not known to the statutory services in the study. Childline commented that its voluntary staff received 665 calls between April 2006 and March 2007 from young children and young people who had run away or who were thinking of running away. Furthermore, evidence from Running: Other Choices (ROC) Refuge, the only refuge in Scotland run by Aberlour, shows that only one third of the young people who have run from home and enter the Refuge are reported missing and this statistic is echoed in other research carried out in England.


The findings of the study will be invaluable to the National Working Group on Runaways recently formed by the Scottish Executive to provide recommendations to Government on improving the situation for young runaways in Scotland.  The Coalition will continue to provide an independent view on the recommendations produced by this group.


Bryan Evans, Assistant Regional Director from Aberlour and Chair for the Coalition says, “Young runaways are a particularly vulnerable group of young people both because of the situations they are running from and because of the risks they face when they flee. It is extremely disappointing that across the country we have not made significant progress since 2003 when the Executive issued guidance on Young Runaways. We are not recognising that when a young person runs away they are communicating something to us and we need to take the responsibility to ensure they are safe and have opportunities to be heard and receive help. We have experience from our ROC Service working in and around Glasgow that Refuge and community support are important factors in supporting young people, but we need to see similar services and arrangements across the whole of Scotland.” 


On behalf of the 1 in 9 coalition Bryan Evans adds “We are delighted the Scottish Executive funded this study, has agreed to place the issue of runaways on their agenda and has set up the National Working group to take a country-wide look at what plans need to be in place to provide services for young people who run away, or at risk of running.”


The study, conducted by the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research at the

University of Stirling, examined the provision of services to young runaways by local authorities and Area Child Protection Committees.  1 in 9, The Scottish Coalition of Young Runaways is made up of voluntary and statutory agencies working together to address the plight of this vulnerable group by influencing policy and practice.





Notes to editors:


1.  Make up of coalition

1 in 9, The Scottish Coalition for Young Runaways is supported by Aberlour, Barnardo’s, Streetwork, ACPOS, Childline, ADSW, the Edinburgh Lothian and Borders Child Protection Office, and the Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration.


2.  Runaways stats from studies

  • 1 in 9 of Scotland’s children run away before the age of 16 – this amounts to 9,000 children running away each year including those who have run away previously


  • Each year there are 11,000-12,000 incidents of children running away in Scotland


  • 1 in 6 young runaways are physically and /or sexually assaulted whilst running away


  • 28% of young runaways slept rough on their last occasion


  • 68% of young runaways are not reported missing to the police


  • 50% of young people who run away state that maltreatment figures prominently in their lives and was associated with them running away


Figures taken from Wade, J (2002) Missing Out: Young Runaways in Scotland – Aberlour Child Care Trust and Rees, G and Lee, J (2005) Still Running II. The Children’s Society


3.  Summary Report

A copy of the summary report is available in PDF form from the Aberlour press office.  Please contact 01786 450335.


4. Quotes from members of the Coalition

Spokesperson for ACPOS:

“ACPOS recognise the valuable work carried out during the Scoping Study, which highlights a number of key issues regarding runaways.  ACPOS is fully committed to working with partners in the months ahead in this important are of work”


Martin Crewe, Director of Barnardo’s Scotland:                                                                                                

“Barnardo’s Scotland is aware that many young people who are forced to leave home or who stay away from home without permission are not reported as missing to the Police.


This report highlights that while some provision exists for this highly vulnerable group, there is a long way to go before Scotland can claim it is doing everything it can to help keep these young people safe from the very real harm they may experience.


The Children (Scotland) Act 1995 gives local authorities the power to make available a bed dedicated to young people who are missing from home and are in need of temporary refuge. Barnardo’s Scotland would advocate that such provision be made readily available to those who need it.


We welcome the findings of this scoping study and hope that those involved in the care of young people take up the challenge it clearly presents.”


Spokesperson for ADSW said:

“ADSW welcomes the report, and the increased focus on this vulnerable group of young people. Young people who go missing from home are likely to experience a range of difficulties, and it is important that young runaways are seen within the overall context of children’s services. These services continue to face competing demands and considerable pressures on resources”.



5. Quote from Children and Early Years Minister Adam Ingram

"We want young people to be safe and well looked after. Young people who run away from home are often struggling to cope with complex circumstances and situations and feel they have no alternative. They need access to help, advice and support. This study will feed in to the work of our recently established national working group on young runaways, and help us improve services for these young people."


6. Contacts

For further information please contact Kelly Bayes, Head of Policy and Communications at Aberlour on 01786 450335