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Offer by administrator @, Thursday, November 05, 2009, 17:23

Many youngsters living on the streets are not receiving help to deal with their problems, according to a report from Railway Children.

They struggle to receive any support from elsewhere after home life becomes impossible, says the study by the charity.

Research among 103 children and young people who are or were "detached" from home or care while under the age of 16 found that only a quarter received interventions to help them with their difficulties.

The report states: "Most children and young people did not seek formal support because so many of their experiences, for example, violence and being on the streets, became normalised, being reinforced by others around them as well as through their life processes and experiences.

"Some children and young people identified barriers to seeking support such as not knowing where to go for help of having to be self-reliant to survive."

While most of the children and young people were at risk and experiencing harm, many were not known to social services. The majority of their experiences of family life had been fraught with problems.

More than half experienced physical abuse with fathers most frequently the perpetrator, despite the relatively low numbers of fathers involved with their children. A small number were abused by step-relatives and by family friends.

Many of their parents had substance misuse, domestic violence and mental health issues, which had an effect on their ability to care for their children. A fifth of the children and young people grew up in abject poverty, the majority living in social housing in low-income families.

Carrying a knife was common among young males and a small number carried and used guns. About half of young males defined themselves as belonging to a gang. Substance use was rife. Using more than one drug was common and some became heavy users of such drugs as heroin and cocaine.

Many of the children and young people have experienced depression, and other mental health issues, and have not received support to address their causes.

Emilie Smeaton, author of the report and national research and strategy manager at Railway Children, said: "When children end up on the streets they quickly become trapped in a world of violence and resort to dangerous survival strategies. This puts them at great risk of harm and exploitation. Protecting a child from more harm can cut the long-term cost of crime, substance use, poor mental health and wage loss from a failed education."

The charity called for informal drop-in centres to be set up solely for children and young people offering shelter, warmth and food, and for resources to be available for frontline staff to identify and carry out more early, home-based interventions, plus better support for parents and carers trying to address their own issues.

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