Children's refuge may close

A unique refuge for abused children could close in 10 days following the Government's decision to withdraw lifeline funding, leaving hundreds of needy children homeless.

The shelter, at a secret address in London, is one of only four similar "safe houses" in the country, and provides emergency accommodation for runaways under 16. The Department of Health, which has refused to continue paying pounds 100,000-a-year to fund the project, says local authorities should foot the bill.

Esther Rantzen, left, chair of Childline, said: "If desperate young people call us ... we refer them to this refuge. The West murders are still fresh in our minds."

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