Dispatches – Britain’s Street Kids

dispatches britains street kids

Every day hundreds of children are forced to leave home. Some run away, even more are thrown away: discarded and evicted by their parents. This crisis in Britain’s families has created an itinerant population of young people without support or a roof over their heads. The state has to provide, at an immense cost, while voluntary organisations try to plug the gaps in the face of drastic cutbacks and closures.

Directed by award-winning film-maker, Nick Read, and produced by BAFTA-winning team, True Vision (Dispatches: China’s Stolen Children, Chosen), Dispatches follows four teenagers over six months who are struggling to fend for themselves on the streets. Both at risk and a risk to society, for all of them drugs become a way of life, a means of dealing with the stresses and challenges of life away from family and home comforts. All talk candidly and eloquently about why they take flight: family breakdowns; addiction; violence; neglect and abuse. The unspoken truth behind their stories points to both inadequate parenting and severe lack of consistent and effective care once they have left home, which becomes their reality.

In Edinburgh, 16 year old Robyn is a street veteran. She left home aged 12 and soon after she was injected with heroin for the first time. Now she wrestles with her addiction and demons, so that “someone will hear my voice”.

For 16 year old Chelsey, “every day is a battle”, mainly with South London’s housing officers, to find secure accommodation. Having been kicked out of several hostels, she is running out of options.

Seventeen year old Sophie refuses to deal with the ‘system’ at all, preferring to sofa surf in Bristol’s squats in a state of drug-fuelled flux.

Haydon is 17, but barely equipped to face the world on his own. Recently evicted by his mother, he is soon desperate to leave the B&B where he is placed: “I don’t want my independence yet, I’m too young.”

Dispatches: Britain’s Street Kids explores the hidden world of runaway and evicted teenagers, giving them a voice for the first time, and celebrating their extraordinary ability to fend for themselves. – Channel 4, Dispatches

Documentary Notes

  • Hundreds of children are forced to sleep on the streets
  • An estimated 100,000 children under the age of 16 run away from their home every year (stats from the Childrens Society). A large perportion of these children are chucked out of their home and disowned
  • By law all teenagers between ages 16 and 18 who are identified as homeless are the responsibility of local councils.
  • children are drawn away from home because of excitement or possibility of adventure
  • 1 in 9 young people are physically attacked when away from home. Many are sexually assulted.
  • Homeless children who find themselves in long-term hostels have support from social workers around the clock.
  • children often run away from violent families
  • Private landlords and b&b owners take the overflow of homeless children who cannot otherwise be housed in homeless shelters.
  • Many children report that soical authorities are unsympathetic to their needs.
  • Teenage runaways are constantly in transit, searching for refuge to avoid staying on the streets.
  • To survive in a life where violence is normalised, many homeless teenagers try to deal with problems themselves rather than turning to adults for help.
  • 1 in 3 children evicted from home by their parents experienced violence at home.
  • 30% of children brought up in residential care end up running away.
  • In a recent study, the charity railway children interviewed 100 children who had ran away from home under the age of 16. They found that every single child had used either drugs or alcohol.
  • Inconsistent parenting is a common reson why children decide to leave home

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Whatever happened to robyn