Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Helen Southworth, Labour MP, Warrington South

What's in your Protection of Runaway and Missing Children Bill?

I am calling for a co-ordinated response between central government, local government and the voluntary sector to pull together some of the excellent initiatives that already exist to support children who run away from home. I want to ensure we can use best practice more effectively to reduce the number of children and young people who think this is their only option.

What else is in it?

Other components in this Ten Minute Rule Bill make provision for the national collection and reporting of information on missing children.

I am also proposing the establishment of a national strategic body to co-ordinate cross-boundary services as well as a national freephone helpline and regular national surveys of young people, similar to the British crime survey.

Why is this important?

At the moment, children's services and police forces across the country are trying to resolve the issue. But even where there are effective local practices, young people who run away don't necessarily stay in their immediate area. We need to ensure we have a direct resource at the source of the problem. This means making sure we work effectively across boundaries and between different forces. Most crucially, we need to bring in the special skills of the voluntary sector.

Why involve the voluntary sector?

There are many types of voluntary organisation, from local projects to national organisations such as the Children's Society, the National Missing Persons Helpline, Barnardo's and NCH. They are organisations young people feel comfortable talking to. If you want to reach all the children and young people who feel their only option is to run away, you have to have a variety of responses.

What stage is the Bill at?

I'm drawing up a preliminary draft, which will be published in the next few weeks. The second reading will be on 12 May.

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