The Government should commission a study of the impact of a rule that would prohibit local authorities from placing a child more than 20 miles from home unless there was a proven need to do so, MPs have said.
In a report, Residential children’s homes, the education select committee said children in care should be found residential homes in their own areas and local authorities should ensure that they have enough suitable placements to make this possible.
The report, which can be viewed here, also called for:
- A national protocol that allows children’s homes to deal with incidents of challenging behaviour to avoid the over-criminalisation of children.
- Better training and development of the workforce in children’s homes.
- Children to be given a greater role in selecting residential care workers.
Graham Stuart MP, chair of the committee, said: “It is a matter of great concern that children are being placed in homes located in unsuitable and dangerous areas. The Government must act if its latest reforms do not adequately address this problem.
“Changes intended to improve the regulation of residential children’s homes are to be welcomed as a serious contribution to improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in our society. However, concerns remain and we agree with the Minister that there is more still to be done.”
Stuart said a wider programme should be implemented to improve stability around placements. A national strategy for care provision, “based on better assessments of need where residential homes are seen as a positive choice, rather than a last resort”, should also be developed.
He added: “We are deeply concerned about the number of children being placed in homes far from their own communities and families because of a lack of accommodation nearer to home. This should only happen where it is the right decision to best meet the needs of that child.”
Stuart suggested that a 20-mile limit would increase incentives on local authorities to develop more facilities.
“Linked to this we have also been shocked by what we have learned about the locations in which some children’s homes are sited,” he said.
“We suggest that the planning system may have a part to play here, but if the new area risk assessments do not bring about a clear improvement, then the Government must act”.