Serial placements afflict children in care in most authorities

Looked-after children faced more than 10 placement moves in almost three-quarters of English local authorities last year with wide variations between areas, official figures reveal.

While multiple placements dropped overall across England between 2002 and 2007, a few councils had consistently high levels, the Department for Children, Schools and Families figures showed. Last year, children in 108 of the 150 authorities moved 10 times or more. Of those with the highest numbers of moves, there were 15 children affected in Warwickshire and 10 each in Bolton, Essex, Plymouth and Southampton.

Lancashire, Essex and Hampshire had consistently high numbers of multiple placements, with at least 20 children experiencing five or more moves in each of the six years considered.

The figures were obtained by crossbench peer Earl Listowel on behalf of the Independent Children’s Homes Association.

The association wants councils to face additional monitoring on the number of children with five to nine or 10, or more, placement moves in a year.

Currently, they are only assessed on the number of children with three or more placements during a year. ICHA believes its proposal will put more pressure on councils to find appropriate homes for children who have already had multiple placements.

Roy Williamson, executive officer for ICHA, said: “These children are the most challenging and most probably account for a disproportionate amount of looked-after children in prison, affected by drugs, sexual abuse and homelessness. That’s why it’s vital to reduce inappropriate and multiple placements to recognise the need for stability.”

Jennifer Mein, cabinet member for children and young people at Lancashire Council, warned that figures did not compare “like with like”. She pointed out that the council was the fourth largest in England, adding: “We recognise the importance of stability for these most vulnerable of children and young people.”

A DCSF spokesperson said: “We will continue to monitor local authorities’ progress in improving their performance in this area and will consider any further action that is needed, in the light of this information.”

The Children and Young Persons Bill currently before parliament includes plans for increased placement scrutiny.

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