The junior minister for children, young people and families has agreed that the indicator on out of authority placements for looked after children would need to be reviewed if it was found to be forcing councils to break up stable placements.
Speaking exclusively to 0-19, Maria Eagle insisted that indicators must not be allowed to “undermine good sense”.
“Obviously some placements far away from home are absolutely appropriate and right for the child,” she said. “Certainly I wouldn’t like to see stable, sensible, good placements being broken up just to meet an indicator in that way. To the extent that that kind of thing starts happening, you need to change the indicator.”
The new indicator, one of 20 against which children’s social services will be judged this year, will measure the proportion of children in care who are placed more than 20 miles from their home. It aims to address the capacity of councils to have sufficient placements locally to allow for contact with natural parents, siblings and other relatives, and local communities.
One reason cited for higher numbers of out of authority placements is the difficulties some local authorities experience recruiting sufficient numbers of foster carers locally.
Baaf Adoption and Fostering and the Fostering Network claim there is a national shortage of 10,000 foster carers and that an additional £750m a year is needed to bring fostering services up to scratch.
However, Eagle told 0-19 that, although the government needed to see what more could be done in the fostering field, “great advances” had already been made and she did not necessarily agree with the charities’ figures.
To read a transcript of the full interview with Maria Eagle, go to 0-19.co.uk