Lloyd’s lifeline to help a legion of young runaways

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Vulnerable Wigan children who regularly go missing will get wrap-around help and support to stop them slipping through the net, Greater Manchester’s Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner has announced.

Tony Lloyd has invested £400,000 in a ground-breaking project, led by the third sector, which will see a co-ordinated and consistent approach to tackling the growing missing children problem across Greater Manchester.

This is an issue we cannot ignore. Any child that goes missing, even for a short period, is at risk

Tony Lloyd

In 2014, more than 4,000 children were reported missing in the police force’s area, with more than 1,000 children going missing more than once.

One child has been reported missing more than 200 times during their lifetime.

And around 95 per cent of young people at risk from sexual exploitation have gone missing at least once.

The Children’s Society, in partnership with charities Urban Outreach and 42nd Street, will be working with children and young people - and their parents, families and carers - to address the reasons why they go missing in the first place and aim to put in place a tailored package of support to help keep them out of harm’s way.

Mr Lloyd said: “This is an issue we cannot ignore. Any child that goes missing, even for a short period, is at risk.

“But it’s clear we need a new approach to this issue, one which treats young people as individuals, listens to their worries and fears, and gives them a voice in tackling the problems that are making them run away in the first place.

“For the first time vulnerable missing children, and their families, will get consistent and bespoke support, ending the postcode lottery that’s gone before. This project will not only provide a lifeline to children and young people who are crying out for help, it will also help reduce demand on an already stretched policing services.”

Paul Maher, Greater Manchester Area Manager at The Children’s Society, said: “Children and young people run away for many different reasons, including family breakdown, abuse and neglect.

“We know from our existing work in Greater Manchester that intensive personal support can really help to reduce the risk of children going missing from home or care with all the dangers that carries, including being sexually exploited.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to work with our partners Urban Outreach and 42nd Street to help keep even more young people safe and ensure the same vital support is available across Greater Manchester.”

The two-year project will begin in February and work with children who have been reported missing between two and five times in the last 12 months.

This early intervention aims to help stop the problem getting worse, preventing further missing from home incidents. It aims to reduce the number of children going missing and work with those vulnerable children and young people to identify and address the reasons for them going missing. This will include mentoring, parenting programmes, mediation with families, specialist counselling, and building young people’s personal, social and academic skills.

The project will complement the ongoing work to tackle child sexual exploitation, which brings police, councils, health, the voluntary sector and other agencies together to protect vulnerable children and young people and target those who prey on them.

The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. It also campaigns for changes to laws affecting young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future.

This project aims to help young people like 17-year-old Rachel – not her real name - from Greater Manchester.

Rachel received support from a project worker at The Children’s Society after she went missing for three days earlier this year after struggling to cope emotionally after she was sexually assaulted.

Speaking about her help for the first time today, she said: “I didn’t care about whether I was safe or what I was doing – whether I was drinking or taking drugs.

“I saw it as freedom from all the things that we going on in my life at the time but my project worker helped me see that I was putting myself at risk and making myself vulnerable.

“Young people in my situation deserve every piece of help they can get because if they don’t get it they could run away and end up coming to more harm than I did.

“If it wasn’t for the support I received from The Children’s Society I wouldn’t be where I am now.”

Rachel hasn’t gone missing again since she began receiving support from The Children’s Society and has now found a part-time job and is at college.