The Independent Children’s Home Association has called on ministers to pressurise councils to curtail the number of placements for looked-after children.
ICHA co-chair Alison Trainor said many children with highly complex needs experienced multiple placement breakdowns because they were placed inappropriately. She said some children experienced more than 25 placements by the age of 14 or 15 and called for more monitoring of council performance.
ICHA wants reforms to the performance indicator which requires councils to record the percentage of looked-after children with three or more placements during the year.
Reform performance indicator
Alison Trainor said: “We have made the case with ministers and others that the measurement should be made more sophisticated by recording and publishing the number of children with five and then 10 moves. Extra indicators would put pressure on placing authorities to get the next placement right rather than just containing the problem by moving it around.”
Trainor said there was “anecdotal evidence” to suggest children were being placed “by cost rather than need” including greater use of foster care placements when residential care would be better, resulting in multiple placement breakdowns.
Guidance on children running away from care
Meanwhile, new practice guidance has been published on tackling the issue of children going missing from residential care. The National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care based it on protocols developed in Lancashire.
It says the risk of a child going missing should be considered as part of the placement planning process, even if there is no history of them doing so, and relevant information gathered and shared about risk factors.
It also says children should be interviewed within 48 hours of their return by someone independent of the placement, such as the child’s social worker, and the findings used to revise care plans.