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Charity calls for end to children in care being moved miles away from their communities

The #GoneTooFar campaign highlights how children in care are often moved to places they don’t know, far away from their communities and support networks.

21/09/23

Charity calls for end to children in care being moved miles away from their communities

Research has shown the “shocking number of children in care being moved away from everything they know and love.”

Become, a charity representing children in care and young care leavers, sent Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to all local authorities in England, as well as the Department for Education.

Responses showed that on average, children in care in England are placed more than 18 miles from their home – equivalent to the distance between Birmingham and Coventry – with some children moved more than 500 miles.

Children who experienced multiple care placements were more likely to be placed more than 20 miles from home. While children who have just had one placement are placed on average 15.8 miles away from home, children who have had three or more placements are placed on average 22.4 miles away from home.

Research also showed that children who are moved more than 20 miles from home are more likely to have lower wellbeing and experience emotional difficulties than children who are placed closer to home.

In 2022, almost two thirds (65%) of all children in private provision were placed outside of their local authority area, compared to 29.9% of children not in private provision. In 2022, almost all (92%) of children living in private secure units, children’s homes or semi-independent settings were placed out of area.

Data also showed that over 800 children under the care of local authorities in England were moved to Scotland or Wales.

The research will be outlined in a seminar at The Social Work Show in Manchester on 2 October, where Katy Hudson, Training & Development Manager, will discuss the research and the campaign. Also discussed will be what can be done to change this and how you could support as a social worker should this happen to a young person you work with.

The charity said that for some children it is right for them to be moved away to a different area – to keep them safe, to protect them from exploitation, or to move them closer to other family members, for example. However, it said the practice is being used more and more when it is not in their best interests because of a lack of suitable places in their local area, compounding the trauma they’ve already experienced.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, CEO of Become, said this status quo was “unacceptable”.

“We hear time and again from the young people we work with that they’ve been made to move – often without warning – to an area they don’t know, far away from everything that matters to them.

“Being moved can disrupt a child’s education, life outcomes, and relationships – including with brothers and sisters who might live miles away. Poor transport links can make it difficult or even impossible for a young person to get to school or college, see their friends or stay connected to their community. Young people tell us how lonely, isolated, and stigmatised it makes them feel.”

Become is calling on the government and local authorities to commit to stop children being placed miles from home, to publish strategies to increase the supply of appropriate local options, and to recognise and register the number of times children are moved inappropriately.

“There are 82,000 children in care, more than ever before, with numbers continuing to rise. Without urgent action this problem will continue to get worse. We need a national commitment and strategy to keep children close to the people and places that matter to them. All children in care deserve the love and stability they need to heal and thrive,” Katharine Sacks-Jones added.   

FoI requests were sent to 151 local authorities in England and to the Department of Education (DfE) between October 2022 and February 2023 asking about their children in care. More than 90% responded, however many local authorities were unable to provide full responses to the information request, and some were not able to provide any information.

You can register for a free ticket to The Social Work Show in Manchester on 2 October to find out more about the research: www.thesocialworkshow.co.uk

For more information, visit: www.becomecharity.org.uk/gone-too-far

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