New government figures show that at least 10,900 children in care are placed 20 miles or more from their home – despite government guidance stating that such placements are “not in their best interest”.
The Commission for Social Care Inspection recognises that children placed at a distance from home are likely to do worse at school than those who are nearer to existing family and support networks.
The inspectorate introduced a new performance indicator last year to check on councils’ ability to place looked-after children within 20 miles of their home. It will now review the first year’s data and consider how bandings for the new indicator should be set to reflect the appropriateness of some placements beyond a 20 mile limit, such as in rural areas.
A spokesperson for the Fostering Network said it made no sense to move a child away from their local area when often the end goal was to place them back with their family.
“It’s traumatic enough to be put into care, let alone having to change schools and live away from family and friends,” she said, blaming the situation on the shortage of foster carers.
“We should be ensuring there is a good selection of foster carers available locally to provide continuity of care. But there is a crisis in the foster care population, which is having an impact on some of the most vulnerable children.”