The number of children in care placed in accommodation more than 20 miles from their home, family, and friends continues to rise, and the number of children being moved multiple times in one year remains high, latest figures from the Department for Education show.
The Department for Education annual statistics on looked after children in England, published today, reveals at least 16, 970 children in care – more than a fifth of all children in the care system – have been moved to foster placements, children’s homes, or other placements far away from the friends, family, school, and local community they know and are connected to. The data also reveals that children in the care system in England were moved over 85,000 times in 2021-22, up by 5% on last year, further denying children in care the stability that all children need to thrive.
Katharine Sack-Jones, CEO of Become, the national charity for children in care and young care leavers, says:
“Behind today’s statistics are real children who are facing more instability than ever before, often being moved away from everything and everyone they know, simply because there are no alternatives closer to home.
We know from calls to our Care Advice Line just how important it is for children, who have already faced trauma, to maintain the relationships and connections that help them feel safe and secure. The constant change and disruption also puts young people at an increased risk of harm, including exploitation and abuse.
We hope today’s Autumn Statement gives children’s social care the attention and investment it desperately needs. And the Government’s response to the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care, due next month, must address the critical issue of providing the right homes in the right places for children in care, to give them the strong foundations they deserve.”
Jade, 22, grew up in South East London before she entered care, and spent 18 months at a children’s home in Blackpool, hundreds of miles from her family, friends and social worker. She recalls:
“I felt lonely and out of place. Other children in the home where I lived ran away, and were always found at the train station trying to go back to where they lived. My social worker only came to see me every six months because it was so far for her to travel.”
The Department for Education annual report also showed:
- There were 82, 170 children in care on 31st March 2022. Between 2018 and 2022, the number of children in care increased by 9%. The number of children in care increase by almost a quarter (23%) in the last decade – from 2012 to 2022.
- The number of children placed more than 20 miles from home increased from 16% in 2012 to 21% in 2022.
- More than two fifths were placed out of area (43%), meaning in a different local authority. The number and proportion of children placed outside their local authority has increased for each of the last four years.
- 33% of placements in secure units, children’s homes or semi-independent units were more than 20 miles from home.
- Almost a third (30%) of placements in children’s homes, secure units or semi-independent units were both out of area and more than 20 miles from home.
- Children in private provision are disproportionately more likely to be placed out of area. In 2022, 38% of all children in care were in private placements. However, 57% of all children placed out of area were in private placements. Two thirds of children placed in private provision were placed out of area in 2022 (65%).
- Children were moved to new or different placements 85,660 times in 2022. A fifth (20%) of these were more than 20 miles from home. This could be higher as the distance isn’t known for 11% of placement moves throughout the year.
- 8, 030 children were moved three or more times within 2021/22 – this is 10% of all children in the care system.
Katharine Sacks-Jones is available for interview. Jade is available for interview.
For more information and images, contact Become’s Press & Media Officer, [email protected] / 07951 155246
Become is the national charity for children in care and young care leavers. For 30 years, the charity has stood shoulder to shoulder with care-experienced young people, helping them get the support they need right now and changing the system for future generations.
About the data
The Department for Education national statistics on Children looked after in England including adoption: 2021 to 2022 is available to view here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/children-looked-after-in-england-including-adoption-2021-to-2022
There were 16, 970 children in care placed more than 20 miles from home on 31st March 2022. This represents 21% of all children in the care system on that date.
Both the number and proportion of children placed more than 20 miles from home could be higher as the distance from home of 6, 000 placements (or 7% of all placements) is not known.
The number of children in the care system in England who experienced placement moves has fluctuated over the past four years: increasing from 85, 790 to 89, 040 between 2018 and 2020, falling to 81, 540 in 20221, and increasing to 85, 660 in 2022.