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More must be done for looked after children living far from home: Ofsted

Management oversight and monitoring often worryingly limited

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, a report from Ofsted has said.

In its latest report – From a distance: looked after children living away from their home area – Ofsted evaluated the effectiveness of local authorities in discharging their responsibilities to looked after children who live away from their home community. Inspectors visited a sample of nine local authority areas. The report draws on evidence from 92 cases. It also draws on the views of looked after children and young people, carers, and professionals from the local authorities and from partner agencies.

The report concludes that as corporate parents for the children they look after, local authorities often provide worryingly limited management oversight and monitoring of the quality of care 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.

Responding to Ofsted's report, Peter Grigg, Director of Policy at The Children's Society, said:

'It is unacceptable that two years after our Parliamentary inquiry exposed the harm caused by placing vulnerable children many miles from their homes, councils are still sending thousands of children across the country due to a shortage of suitable carers close to home.

'We know from our work with these children that a lack of contact from social workers and removing them from their friends, school and family can lead to children running away and being at risk of harm and exploitation.

'And this welcome report highlights the worrying lack of care and contact given to these children, as well as the lack of access to education and services to their well-being. Councils are responsible for these children, and it is their duty to keep them safe.

'The government have has made welcome changes to make councils more accountable for where they place children in care, but to make sure these changes are implemented on the ground, councils need to be properly funded. And the government and Ofsted need to ensure tough oversight of councils to make sure they are keeping these children safe.'

The Ofsted report is here. The report by the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults and the APPG for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, referred to by Peter Grigg, is here.

9/4/14