Young people call for more to be done to prevent young runaways ending up on the streets

Article date: 5 October 2011

  • Dance act Diversity help launch Street Dance for Change

New research launched today reveals almost half (44%) of young people are looking to society and the Government to do more to help young people facing difficult home circumstances and to stop them becoming one of the 100,000 under 16’s who end up running away every year1.

Despite the fact that one in nine under 16’s will run away from home this year2, the research showed an alarming lack of awareness among young people about the scale of the issue and what to do if they found themselves in this situation - 86% of young people questioned had no idea about the scale of the problem in the UK. One in ten young people (11%) wouldn’t know what to do if things were so bad at home that they were contemplating running away and only a small minority would turn to an adult authority figure in their life for help or advice3. Over half (52%) feel their only option would be to turn to friends for help. 

The research was carried out on behalf of Railway Children, the charity that supports vulnerable young people alone and at risk on Britain’s streets, and corporate partner Aviva to draw attention to what is a hidden issue in the UK. Railway Children and Aviva have teamed up with street dance act Diversity to launch Street Dance for Change, a campaign which will encourage young people to create and upload Diversity-inspired dance videos to raise awareness of vital support services to help young runaways.

The survey of 1000 11–18 year olds found:

  • 85% of young people thought most runaways were between 13 and 16 – in fact 30% of young runaways are thought to be under 124
  • 59% of young people thought that abuse at home, either physical, mental or sexual was one of the most common reasons for running away
  • Younger age groups were more likely to include being bullied by people in the neighbourhood/school among their top three reasons (39% of 12 year olds compared to 20% of 17 year olds)
  • They would rather turn to their peers than adults in their life for help, just 14% said they would speak to a teacher and 3% would call the police

When asked to consider where a young person might go immediately on the day or night they run away, most young people surveyed thought they would seek refuge in the home of a friend or another family member. The reality is that most young people who run away from home are often escaping exceptionally difficult home circumstances and so see the streets as their safest option.

When asked where they think young people are most likely to end up living longer term after running away, over a third (37%) thought they would end up living on the streets. Only 6% of young people questioned thought the social services system would care for these young runaways on a longer term basis.

Terina Keene Railway Children Chief Executive said: “Having survived a very difficult home environment, many young runaways have lost their trust in adults and see the streets as their only alternative if they feel they cannot live at home any longer. Many young people we work with have already had experiences of the care system and are reluctant to go back. Faced with limited choices and not knowing where to turn, many already vulnerable young runaways slip through the cracks and end up living alone on the streets, where they are at risk of violence, sexual abuse and drug or alcohol dependency. Railway Children's aim is to reach children before living on the street causes further harm.”

Street Dance for Change, a joint campaign between Railway Children and Aviva, will raise  awareness of Railway Children’s work in the UK, helping and supporting children who have or are thinking about running away from home or find themselves living on the streets.

This innovative digital campaign will use hard hitting messaging to raise awareness of the issue of young runaways, whilst encouraging mass participation among young people to help other young people. Diversity have created a video to highlight the challenges that children alone and at risk in the UK face. The campaign will encourage young people to upload a 30-second freestyle dance of their own. The creators of the ‘freestyle’ video with the most views at the end of the campaign will have the chance to win tickets to a performance at Diversity’s 2012 tour and meet the group themselves5.

The campaign also encourages people to make a difference by raising money. For each view of a Street Dance for Change competition entry Aviva will donate £2 to Railway Children6.

Ashley Banjo from Diversity said: “Things have to get really bad for a young person to run away from home. The fact that so many of those who do then end up living on the streets is shocking. We believe that dance is power and that’s why we’re supporting Street Dance for Change. We want young people to feel empowered to take positive action to make a difference and spread the word. Go to to get involved and support Railway Children’s amazing work in the UK.”

According to the young people questioned in the survey, the single most important thing that society can do to help children alone and at risk on the streets is to do more to help them solve their problems at home so they don’t feel the need to run away.

Anne Filatotchev, marketing director Aviva UK, the corporate partner behind Street Dance for Change said: “It’s a shocking fact that young runaways in the UK are ending up living alone and at risk on the streets. This is something that affects every one of us. It’s happening in our communities and on our streets.

“Aviva works with Railway Children to help support the vital work they do with vulnerable young people. This year we’re working with street dance group Diversity to help engage young people across the UK in an issue which directly affects them and their peers.”

To raise awareness about young runaways and raise funds to support Railway Children’s vital work with vulnerable young people across the UK visit


Notes to editors

Still Running ll – The Children’s Society 2005. This is the most, recent, accurate set of data of this kind, the exact scale of the problem is currently unknown but we have no reason to doubt the prevalence of the issue.

Populus interviewed 1,000 young people between the age of 11 and 18 in Great Britain, between the 1 and 10 September. Results have been weighted to be representative of this age group. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. For more information see

About Street Dance for Change

  • Street Dance for Change will encourage young people to upload a 30 second freestyle dance of their own. The creators of the ‘freestyle’ video with the most votes at the end of the campaign will have the chance to win  tickets to a performance at Diversity’s 2012 tour.
  • People can also make a difference just by watching the videos their friends upload onto the Facebook page. For every view of a competition entry Aviva will donate £2 to Railway Children.
  • For full terms and conditions about the campaign visit   

About Aviva

Aviva is the world’s sixth largest* insurance group. We provide 44.5 million customers with insurance, savings and investment products with total worldwide sales in 2010 of £47.1 billion**.

We are the UK’s largest insurer with over 14 million customers. Our combination of life, health and general insurance is unique in its scale and breadth in the UK market.  Customers can choose to buy our products through intermediaries, our corporate partners or from Aviva direct and we have become the partner of choice for many of the UK’s biggest organisations. 

We are ranked as one of the UK’s top ten most valuable brands and Aviva Plc are in the top 10% of socially responsible companies globally in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. In 2010 we invested £4.3m into our communities in the UK, which included 1,500 Aviva volunteers giving 24,000 hours for good causes. In addition, our employees gave £600,000 through fundraising and donating. Read our corporate responsibility report at

Aviva is working in partnership with Railway Children through the Aviva Street to School programme to get children living or working on UK streets back into everyday life. Find out more at

The Aviva media centre at includes company information and a news release archive.

For broadcast-standard video, please visit

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*based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2010.

**at 31 December 2010.

About Railway Children

Railway Children is a leading children’s charity focused on the relief of children and young people living alone and at risk on the streets in need of care and protection. We think all children that run away should be kept safe. For more information visit


1. ‘Still Running II' – The Children’s Society 2005
2. ‘Still Running II' – The Children’s Society 2005
3. 14% would speak to a teacher, 9% would speak to a youth worker or mentor and only 3% would speak to the police
4. ‘Still Running II' – The Children’s Society 2005
5. Full competition terms and conditions apply, please see for more detail
6. Up to a maximum of £50,000.

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