Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, has published a report revealing thousands of children in the care system are living many miles away from family and friends. The report, ‘Pass the parcel: children posted around the care system’, shines a light on the experiences of children in care who are moved ‘out of area’ – away from their home boroughs where family and friends live.
“I feel like a parcel getting moved around all the time, getting opened up and sent back and moved on to somewhere else.” – Teenage girl in care, over 100 miles from ‘home’
The report shows that at 31st March 2018, four in ten children in care in England were living ‘out of area’, with over 11,000 children living more than 20 miles from their home postcode. There were over 2,000 children living 100 miles away from their home postcode and almost a thousand children living over 150 miles away from the area they would call home.
It also reveals there has been a 13% rise in the number of children in care living ‘out of area’ over the last four years, meaning an increasing number of the most vulnerable children in England are living in places disconnected from their support networks of family and friends. Often these moves are being made without advance warning or preparation. The children most likely to live ‘out of area’ are aged 13 or over.
The Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, is calling on the new Government to meet its manifesto commitment for a wide-ranging, independent review into the children’s social care system and make improving the experiences of children in care a priority. The review should specifically look at children living out of area. It should explore how greater weight can be given to the long-term emotional needs of children in care, in addition to their immediate safety, and how children can meaningfully contribute to decisions made about them.
The Commissioner is also calling for an urgent Department for Education review into the residential care market, and for a capital injection for future commissioning arrangements and more incentives to councils to find local homes for children in care.