So, on Tuesday night I was invited by the lovely people at Mumsnet to attend a function up in London to find out a bit more about the charity Railway Children and to consume my own weight in cocktail sausages at no.10 Downing Street at a do hosted by Samantha Cameron.
I posted back in December about Railway Children who are a charity who try and support young people who have run away from home or, preferably, prevent them doing so in the first place. I’ve never run away from home and with my son only being two, it’s thankfully not been an issue that has impacted my own life too much. However, as The Husband runs the local foodbank/ homeless drop in centre / sometimes night shelter / anything else it needs to be, I have quite a bit of understanding about what can happen when people become homeless, and it’s really, really not nice and really not the kind of thing that I would wish on anyone. Certainly not a child. And people do prey on the homeless, particularly on homeless and vulnerable children in a way that makes my stomach turn. Not nice stuff, but true all the same.
So, after the typical Kate style panics: will the Cameron’s have the heating on high enough or will I need to take a thick cardie? (It was fine) Will it be one of those houses where you have to take off your shoes when you go in? (No, although it would have been ace if it was) Will I get lost finding it? (Obviously) I was on my way.
First stop was a nice hotel with very nice cakes where I met some very nice Mumsnetters and the very nice Mumsnet staff as well as charities that Railway Children work with. Now there are two facts I learnt here that I want to concentrate on, so that even if you skim read the rest of this I want you to really concentrate now, ok?!
1) Every 5 minites a child runs away from home in the UK. That’s every five minites. Probably the same amount of time it will take you to read this.
2) 30% of those are twelve years old or younger. 30 percent! I don’t know why, but I thought of this very much of being a teenage thing. Twelve is young. Younger than twelve? Away from home? I had to stop typing there for a moment. It totally does my head in. It makes me feel sad, sick, emotional, angry. Especially thinking that two thirds of these children aren’t even reported missing. That one in six will sleep rough.
So yes, the cakes were nice, the cocktail sausages were nice (there were posher nibbles I hasten to add, but I like to imagine that cocktail sausages are the Cameron’s version of we’re all in it together austerity style drinks parties), but more important than the nice carpets, nice art, more important that who I met, saw, shook the hand of or what the toilets were like is that one every five minutes stat and 30% being 12 or younger. Frankly, it feels a bit daft to talk about cocktail parties when you think of kids sleeping rough.
Half of all British parents never discuss running away with their children. We talk sex, divorce, drugs, but avoid this one. And talking is the best way we can know what our kids are thinking.
The next night, while my son was getting ready for bed I thought about this and decided that if I was going to talk about this to you, then I had to start talking about it to my own son too.
“Please don’t ever run away from home.” I told him. “I love you and no matter what the matter is I am your mummy and I will always be here to help you solve it.”
“More toothpaste.” He replied, but at least the conversation has been started.
BIG NOTE!!! If you comment on this post then Aviva will donate £2 to Railway Children and help them to help more young people who have run away from home, or prevent it happening to others. I will also love you forever (in a platonic way though, ok?!) x