ALMOST 1,700 reports of children going missing or running away in South Yorkshire were made in just one year, The Star can reveal.
South Yorkshire charity Safe@Last – which offers help to children who run away from home or from care – dealt with 1,676 referrals to its missing persons project, Misper, between July 2011 and July 2012.
The figures show an increase of more than 300 referrals on the 1,346 incidents during the same period in 2010/2011, involving young people from Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster.
In the majority of cases, referrals came from South Yorkshire Police.
Workers believe the rise in the figures - which include the same children going missing more than once - is due to better access to services.
Tracy Haycox, director of children and young people’s services at Safe@Last, said: “A major concern is that many of the young people we work with do not realise the dangers they are placing themselves in until it’s too late.
“But by taking the time to build up a positive relationship with them and their families, we gain their trust and, often for the first time, they open up and talk about their problems.
“This makes it possible to work out much more quickly what support they really need.”
A spokesman for South Yorkshire Police said: “Through working together South Yorkshire Police have promoted the work Safe@Last can offer to the young people of South Yorkshire. This has led to an increase in children accessing the services Safe@Last offer.”
The rise in the number of young people needing support comes as international charity the Railway Children publishes a report recommending South Yorkshire’s service is used as a model for delivering support for young runaways across the UK.
It comes following a year-long independent review and an in-depth look at how services operate.
The Dinnington-based charity won praise for the way it delivers ‘Reach’, a model which offers prevention, support and crisis intervention.
Its 24-hour helpline, one-to-one work with young people and their families, education programmes and street work are being held up as trailblazers for the rest of the country.
The charity is also the only organisation which has a refuge for children under 16.
Ms Haycox added: “Reach is all about diffusing problems before they get so bad children are put at risk.”
Terina Keene, Railway Children’s chief executive, said: “Without one-to-one support, longer-term when needed, we will continue to see young people, particularly girls, being ignored or disbelieved when they report abuse.
“This report provides compelling evidence that Reach is a viable option for local authorities in South Yorkshire and across the country looking for a cost-effective way of giving this support and reducing the risks faced by the most vulnerable children in our communities.”