Close to 40 per cent of children with brothers or sisters do not live with them once they enter the care system, new research suggests.
According to a report by charity the Family Rights Group, close to 40 per cent of such children have been separated from all their siblings. When sibling groups themselves are analysed, the data suggests that just under half are separated in residential or foster care. Youngsters living with foster carers related to them are less likely to be separated from their brothers or sisters – just 8 per cent are separated in such ‘kinship care’ arrangements, the report reveals. Children who are adopted do even better – only five per cent of those are sent to live away from their siblings.
The Family Rights Group assembled the data by sending Freedom of Information requests to all 152 local authorities across England. Answers were received from 122.
The report notes the legal duty placed on local authorities to keep siblings who enter the care system together whenever possible, saying that there is a “clear presumption that this is generally the best option”.
The report, entitled What happens to siblings in the care system?, describes the decision to separate siblings or not as of “vital importance”, and something which can have “lifelong consequences in terms of whether these children will grow up knowing each other or not.”
Isolated children entering residential homes may feel overwhelmed or scared , and foster families may have no knowledge of the children’s preferences, routines or anxieties without guidance from an older brother or sister.
The authors call on local authorities to make greater efforts to keep siblings together.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association replied:
“The latest national figures show that social workers are able to keep siblings together in the vast majority of cases but there are instances when it may be in a child’s best interests to be placed separately from their brothers and sisters.”
Read the report here.
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