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More children in care being moved far from their local area, new data shows

New government figures show a 62% rise in the number of children in care being moved away from their local area over the last decade.

18/11/23

More children in care being moved far from their local area, new data shows

New data released by the Department for Education (DfE) shows a continued and significant rise in the numbers of children in care moved more than 20 miles from their local area.

Campaigners say that too frequently these children are sent to live somewhere they don’t know, often alone and without warning, not because it is in their best interests, but because of a lack of suitable placements.

Government figures show that, as at 31 March 2023:
- Across England, 17,630 children in care had been moved more than 20 miles away from home – more than a fifth (21%) of all children in care.
- There has been a 62% increase in the numbers of children in care in England moved more than 20 miles away compared to 2013. In the same period, the overall number of children in care increased by 23%.
- In some areas, moving children more than 20 miles away has become commonplace: in 19 local authorities in England, more than a third of children were living more than 20 miles away.
- Children in the care of local authorities in the East of England, the South West, the South East and the East Midlands were most likely to have been placed more than 20 miles away.

Despite promises from the Government to reform children’s social care, charities representing children and care leavers say the data is highlighting that things are ‘moving in the wrong direction’.

Become, a national charity for children in care and young care leavers, said that with a 23% rise of children coming into care since 2013, urgent action is needed to turn this around. Katharine Sacks-Jones, Chief Executive of Become, the national charity for children in care and young care leavers, said: “All children need love and stability to thrive. But just imagine being moved far away from your local area, often without warning, to an area you don’t know, far away from everything that matters to you.”

“Being moved can be incredibly disruptive to children’s education and relationships – including with brothers and sisters who might live miles away. Young people tell us how lonely and isolated it makes them feel and the real impact it can have on their mental health.

A decade of data paints a worrying picture of this happening more and more often – it’s unacceptable that children are being moved away, not because it’s the right decision for them, but because there are no suitable options closer.

Government must take urgent action to stop these numbers from continuing to get worse. We need a national commitment and strategy to keep children close to the people and places that matter to them.”   

Become’s #GoneTooFar report, based on data from local authorities, shows the average child in care in England is placed more than 18 miles from their local area and the school, friends, family and networks that matter to them – equivalent to the distance from Birmingham to Coventry, with some children moved more than 500 miles away.

The latest DfE figures reveal the situation is only getting worse, with more children than ever before being moved far away not because it‘s in their best interests – but because of a lack of suitable places locally.

View the Department for Education’s annual statistical release ‘Children Looked After in England Including Adoptions’: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoptions/2023#content

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