Half of all children in homes placed out of area

More than half (55%) of all children placed in residential care are in out-of-area placements, according to new data from the Department for Education.

More than half (55%) of all children placed in residential care are in out-of-area placements, according to new data from the Department for Education (DfE).

Releasing a “data pack” of statistics on children’s homes for commissioners, the government said it would evaluate how local authorities approach their responsibilities for commissioning children’s homes services, “especially when this involves placing children out of authority at a distance from their home communities”.

The data also showed that children’s homes were overwhelmingly located in three English regions- the South East, the West Midlands and the North West. The DfE suggested such a statistic should prompt debate if this distribution was influencing children’s outcomes.

A DfE area study reported: “Where there were high concentrations of children placed in children’s homes a significant distance from their home, there was more risk of there being a lack of effective and ongoing care planning arrangements and difficulties in sustaining a continuing relationship between the child and their allocated social worker.”

The announcement was one of the government’s first on how it intends to take forward its “support and improvement” programme for children’s residential care following the cancellation of a contract with Tribal soon after taking office last year.

Other statistics in the pack included:

● 10% of looked-after children are in children’s homes, hostels or secure units.

● 38% of those in hostels or unregulated children’s homes were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children compared with 2% in regulated homes and hostels.

● Most children in children’s homes were older than 12.

● 60% of children in regulated children’s homes are boys; 27% of boys who become looked-after at age 15 are placed in children’s homes.

● Children placed in residential care were less likely to have abuse or neglect identified as the primary reason for being looked after compared with other placements. Reasons for placements included a child’s disability, socially unacceptable behaviour, family dysfunction or family in acute distress.

● 20% of placements in residential care last longer than a year compared with 25% in foster care.

● 30% of children in children’s homes have had at least five previous placements.

● 33% of children in residential care were more likely to be placed more than 20 miles from their local communities compared with 14% in foster care.

On average local authorities had 33 children in children’s homes. Three councils had no children in residential care.

● £2,689 is the weekly cost of care in a local authority children’s home.

● £2,408 is the weekly cost of care in the non-statutory sector.

● £676 is the weekly cost for a child in foster care.

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