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15 November 2011, 06:00
More than 2,000 children run away from home or care in Essex every year, according to new research from The Children's Society.
Their report has found 26% of child runaways in the county have been the victim of a harmful or dangerous experience.
Still Running 3 also shows that, nationally, one in five child runaways have begged, stolen or done other things to survive.
Seven in ten runaways were not reported missing to police the last time they ran away. A quarter of child runaways were forced to leave home.
The Children’s Society is now calling on central Government to create a national safety net for child runaways, including creating a national action plan for runaways.
Their Chief Executive Bob Reitemeier has been telling Heart: "We are deeply concerned that so many children in Essex are still running from home or care. Huge numbers are putting themselves in very dangerous situations. One child in this situation is one child too many.
"Some children are so desperate that they steal, turn to drugs or alcohol or are abused by adults who groom them. Too often they are alone and desperate for help.
"We have shown that arguments and other family conflict play a massive part in a child’s decision to run. Poor quality family relationships and neglectful parenting are making children and young people feel helpless. Everybody has a part to play in making runaways safe.
"Never has the need for a national safety net of help for young runaways been greater. We urge the Government and other professionals to put this issue to the top of their priority lists."