Every year many hundreds of children and young people in Bolton go missing from their family homes, from school and from the ‘looked after’ system. We developed RUNA (Remember UR Not Alone) in response to this crisis. Our RUNA team works alongside Greater Manchester Police, Bolton Council, parents, carers and local schools to ensure runaways are returned safely and as quickly as possible. The service provides advice, guidance and support to the children and young people who have gone missing and those who are at risk of running away.
Our RUNA workers make contact with every child who is reported missing to the police in Bolton. They work closely with police officers in carrying out independent return interviews with young people, alongside ‘safe and well’ checks. They discuss the dangers and address the problems which cause children to run away. They support both the young person and their family in order to minimise future risks. RUNA links up with other professionals in taking co-ordinated action around children at risk of harm and exploitation.
With the support of Bolton Council, we provide a ‘Response’ service which is triggered each time a ‘missing’ report is filed. In additional we receive funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner and from the Big Lottery (Reaching Communities) to provide a ‘Support’ service. This supports children at repeat risk of running, but who fall under the threshold for statutory agency intervention.
A unique aspect of our service is the joint visits and intelligence sharing arrangements we have with Greater Manchester Police, who have placed a dedicated ‘Missing from Home’ officer to work alongside our staff. The continued success of our joint work in Bolton is now being used as a model for other areas. This is exemplified through our involvement with the Greater Manchester ‘Missing from Home’ Forum.
Client's Stories - Runa
Prior to this new service approach (which commenced in 2015), only 14% of return interviews in Bolton were conducted within the ‘72 hour’ government target of a young person being found. Over our 2019/20 financial year, we are pleased to report that 83% of our return interviews with young people were conducted within the 72 hour government target (down slightly from 87% in the previous year). The service has been impacted in part by the introduction of a new police computer system which had some teething difficulties. Latterly the pandemic also had some impact. However, our results remain consistently excellent when compared with the current national average of 56%.
As a consequence of the above, we attended to 1,565 missing incidents in 2019/20, compared to 1,749 in the previous year. Similarly, the total number of return interviews completed last year was 1,502 compared to 1,559 previously.
We attended to a total of 606 missing young people last year. This compares to 557 in the previous year and 609 the year before that. Our overriding concern is to do all we can to bring this number down. Of the 606 last year, 426 went missing from their home in Bolton. 90 were Looked After Children (LAC’s) within the care system; and 90 were individuals we were called upon to support whose home address was outside Bolton. Last year, the average number of missing episodes per child for children who live at home was 2.5. For those who were LAC the figure was 5.4. This illustrates that LAC’s experience more missing episodes and require more support.
We asked the young people who engaged with us, how they felt at both at the start and end of our involvement. In terms of ‘feeling supported’, 87% felt better and 13% the same. 100% said they felt ‘listened to’. 69% of young people felt more positive about their future and 31% felt the same. 43% said that they were happier about school. 74% of young people reported that they felt more confident and happy and that they could cope with things better. Finally, 91% considered that they were better informed about the risks and dangers of going missing. 77% of the young people we worked with reported an improvement in their overall situation, (compared with 78% and 77% in previous years).
Parental feedback has included positive comments on improvement in their child’s hygiene, behaviour, emotional health and communication. 100% agreed that our service had been explained to them clearly and that our support workers were approachable. 86% felt that the risks and dangers associated with their child going missing had been addressed.
Some of the comments we received from parents are:
“I used to ring a lot and RUNA would always speak to me and help often.”
“The worker was brilliant!”
“RUNA has helped and he is always home at a reasonable time now.’
“She has been in for her GCSEs and not taken drugs or alcohol since we received support from RUNA”.
“She has not been missing since. RUNA did a really good job and got on with her well. They got on the same level.”
“We talk to each other more. We used to argue a lot.”
“She is sticking to curfews and we are talking to each other more.”
“I still have the RUNA number and would ring if I needed to.”
You can read Garry’s Story as told by his Head Teacher here.