A pioneering £1 million research project into runaway and homeless children who sleep rough is to be launched by the University of Wolverhampton.
The research will focus on vulnerable children who are victims of sexual exploitation or abuse, and can also be perpetrators of crime to survive on the streets in cities across Europe.
The two-year Children Rough Sleepers project has received funding of €1.25 million (approx. £1 million) from the European Union DAPHNE fund.
Over the last 20 years, the numbers of children sleeping rough has risen and preventative protection measures are not benefiting them.
The researchers will interview children from the streets to find out about their experiences and needs, and work with organisations, such as social workers, health and education staff, police and victim support, to share their findings.
The team at Wolverhampton will work with partners in the UK, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Spain to assess the similarities and differences between the children in the countries.
The research is led by Professor of Criminal Justice Kate Moss and Director for Research Paramjit Singh, who recently published the findings of their research into the experiences of women who sleep rough and suffer domestic violence.
Professor Moss said: “There is very little information about children who sleep rough, but figures show that 100,000 children go missing every year in the UK. They can be from very different circumstances, from running away from a family situation or abuse to having been deserted.
“After that they can become victims of sexual exploitation or abuse, become involved in crime or be picked up by a gang.
“A lot of the children who find themselves in difficulties are not identified by social services – they are picked up by charitable organisations.
“The research is therefore an important way of identifying the needs of children who sleep rough and finding ways to assist them and develop networks for the agencies across Europe to share knowledge and best practice.”
Experts will research the scale of the problem and evaluate current services; develop an online virtual network to support organisations working in the sector and organise workshops and conference to share knowledge and best practices.
They aim to produce a website, ‘what works’ guides, newsletters and training to around 2,100 key professionals, children, young people and community members.
The findings of the two-year Women Rough Sleepers Who Suffer Violence project are now available: http://womenroughsleepers.eu/
Following on from this project, the team has been awarded a further €766,000 to research ways to empower women to protect themselves against violence while living on the streets.
Professor Kate Moss has a blog, Human Rights, Human Wrongs: http://www.human-rights.co/