Ofsted: More must be done for Children in Care

Ofsted has said that Local authorities must do more to make sure the needs of looked after children living far away from their family, friends and communities can be met.

Ofsted’s report states that ‘as corporate parents’ for the children they look after, it is worrying that there is often limited management oversight and monitoring of the quality of care that is provided.

Ofsted is calling on the government to review the impact of strengthened regulations on children’s homes providers and local authorities, to ensure that the risks to, and needs of children and young people are properly met and regularly reviewed by those with responsibility for them.

According to Ofsted, young people in local authority care are too often being moved to children’s homes and foster places far from their home communities. Ofsted found that 8,000 (12%) of looked-after children live more than 20 miles from their home.

The regulator accepts that this might sometimes be in the best interests of a child. However, it says the most common reason for children to live out of their home area was a shortage of carers closer to home.

Inspectors saw many cases where children were well-settled in their placements but concluded that the further away from home children live, the less likely it is that their health and education needs will be met.

Debbie Jones, Ofsted’s national director for social care said that, “becoming looked after is difficult enough for any young person, even more so when they move away from their family, friends, and familiar surroundings to a unfamiliar place, without proper access to the help and support they so desperately need. Given the serious risks sometimes associated with out-of-area placements, corporate parents must prioritise and understand the needs of this group. The delays for children and young people accessing the mental health support they need, often because of funding disputes between local authorities is frankly unacceptable, and should immediately be resolved as we have recommended. As demand continues to grow, more and more children will find themselves placed at distance from their families and communities. This issue is not going to go away.”

Ofsted is calling on the government to review the impact of strengthened regulations on children’s homes providers and local authorities, to ensure that the risks to, and needs of children and young people are properly met and regularly reviewed by those with responsibility for them.

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