New measures to discourage councils from placing vulnerable children in distant care homes have been announced by the government.
Following a consultation on reforms to “residential care” for children who have been taken from their families, Children’s Minister Edward Timpson said:
“It’s totally unacceptable for local authorities to routinely place children miles away from their homes for no good reason. Far too often an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ culture prevails, and I’m determined to tackle it. In future, only senior council officials in charge of children’s services will be able to place children out of area and only when they judge it to be the right decision for a child to be moved away from their home area. There will be one individual in each local authority who is directly accountable for these decisions.”
The Minister added:
“I’m also removing the secrecy around residential care by putting more information in the public domain than ever before on the location and quality of homes and working with Ofsted to improve inspection. There is still more work to be done, and I expect councils and care homes to rise to the challenge.”
The reforms, due to come into force a the end of January, also include:
*A requirement that care homes tell their local councils when children move into and out of their area.
*A requirement that new homes can only open in safe areas. Any homes which have already opened in less safe areas will be required to show that they can keep their children safe or face closure.
*A requirement that all care home staff be suitably qualified and within a “strict” time frame.