Chapter one

Changing lives through campaigns and policy

Thanks to our ambitious campaigns and media work, we saw exciting and significant national policy changes that will give hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people the vital support and recognition they need.

Bullied child.
Missing teenager.
Addicted adult.

Make Runaways Safe

Janine’s story

‘I was a good child, the golden child. I used to go to school every day, but then I got bullied.’

Read the full story

What's wrong

Every five minutes a child runs away from home or care. Some are as young as eight. Many have no choice but to go it alone, and take huge risks on the streets – begging or stealing to survive, or resorting to drugs and alcohol. Many are groomed by adults who will later exploit and harm them. This is the reality for 100,000 children who go missing every year.

Making it right

The Children’s Society has been leading the research, policy and practice agenda to protect young runaways for almost 30 years. Now, as part of our Make Runaways Safe campaign, 41 local authorities have signed up to our Runaways Charter, and thanks to our lobbying, all councils will have to offer young runaways a return interview.


Number of children who go missing every year


Number of local authorities signed up to our Runaways’ Charter

Free school meal.
Nourished child.
Fulfilled adult.

Fair and Square

What’s wrong

When we launched Fair and Square in 2012, our ground-breaking analysis revealed that 1.2 million children in England living in poverty did not get a free school meal. Of those, 700,000 – often from poor, working families – were not even entitled to a meal, while the remaining 500,000 were put off claiming theirs due to the stigma attached, and the often poor quality of food on offer.

Making it right

We called on the government to ensure that every child living in poverty received a free, nutritious school meal. In autumn 2013, government announced that all infant school pupils will receive a free meal from September 2014. These will be available to 1.4 million children, which we estimate will lift a further 25,000 school children out of poverty by saving families around £400 per year per child.


Number of children living in poverty still without access to a free school meal


Number of children now getting free school meals because of our Fair and Square campaign

The impact of our two major campaigns, Make Runaways Safe and Fair and Square, was independently evaluated by external consultants ICF GHK.

Read the evaluation summaries

Vulnerable child.
Given refuge.
Bright future.

Child trafficking

What’s wrong

Child trafficking is a pernicious and largely hidden problem in this country. Children are moved from abroad and within the UK for the purposes of exploitation, including forced labour, criminal activity and sexual abuse. Latest figures suggest there are over 2,000 victims of trafficking in the UK and that a quarter of these – 549 – are children. However, the real figure is likely to be much higher.

Making it right

We have long campaigned for a system of independent legal guardians for all children from overseas who have been separated from their families, including child victims of trafficking. Now, thanks to our input, the government has, for the first time, produced statutory guidance for local authorities to ensure they protect and support unaccompanied migrant and trafficked children.


Number of child victims of trafficking in the UK in 2012


Number of local authorities running a trial of child trafficking advocates

Child nurse.
Slipping grades.
Uncertain future.

Young carers

What’s wrong

There are over 166,000 children and young people in England caring for parents, siblings and family members affected by illness, disability and substance misuse. Some are as young as five. Nearly 15,000 children up to the age of 17 are providing more than 50 hours of care every week. According to our report, Hidden from View, these shocking statistics are just the tip of the iceberg.

Making it right

Since 2000, we have organised the only Young Carers Festival in the UK, and our Young Carers in Focus programme has directly helped over 100 young carer ‘champions’. Our work, together with contributions from our partners, led to historic amendments to the law this year that mean young carers will be far less likely to fall behind at school and miss out on their childhoods.


Number of children and young people in England in caring roles


Number of young carers who attend the Young Carers Festival every year

Melissa’s story

‘I’ve just finished my GCSEs and am preparing for college. This, along with my caring responsibilities, often leaves me feeling stressed’

Read the full story

Our national policy

As well as our major campaign wins, in the last year we achieved many significant policy changes which will benefit disadvantaged children – such as the extension of the government’s offer of free childcare to include low-income working families, an increase in childcare support, and changes in the law to better protect children from sexual exploitation. And as a result of a parliamentary inquiry we supported, the government introduced changes to safeguard children in care who are at risk of going missing.

Local campaigning

We work closely with local decision makers and campaigners to ensure local policies are better for children, young people and their families. Our hubs bring together partners across local communities to maximise the impact we make, amplifying our support where it is needed most. Our work on the Social Fund is just one example of how we’ve campaigned locally to achieve change, ensuring low income families get the help they need. For more information, read our Social Fund report.

Changing attitudes

In October 2013, we launched the Children’s Commission on Poverty, a crucial platform that allows children to speak out about what poverty is really like and reveal – through their own eyes – the challenges they face. Our media coverage increased by 36% over last year, while we continue to make national headlines, raising awareness of incredible stories of change, and emphasising how much more still needs to be done to eradicate injustice and protect children from harm.


of children worry about how much money their family has


of children said their home suffered from damp or mould


of children said their home was too cold last winter


of children thought that childhood poverty is increasing