Children in care may no longer be sent to homes hundreds of miles from Birmingham under new Government rules.
The new regulations will be introduced after it emerged last year Birmingham City Council had, during 2013, placed 35 youngsters in care homes more than 30 miles away. Children found themselves as far afield as Plymouth, Boston, Dorset, Lancashire and Northumberland.
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson says this is ‘‘unacceptable’’ and has issued new rules. Under the regulations a single, very senior, council officer will be required to oversee and approve every placement to a home outside the local authority area.
Mr Timpson said: “It’s totally unacceptable for local authorities to routinely place children miles 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 right for a child to be moved away from their home area.”
He also announced an end to some of the secrecy surrounding children’s homes, including making Ofsted inspection information more readily avaialble. Last month Birmingham City Council announced its own review of children’s homes following the closure of two – Bournbrook in Selly Oak and Fairfield in Erdington – after failing Ofsted inspections.
A report to the council’s cabinet said that the numbers of children placed in homes miles from Birmingham is a ‘‘matter for concern’’.
Last summer 63 children were in council-run establishments, but 94 more were in other homes. And 29 per cent of those were more than 15 miles from Birmingham. Last year 14 youngsters under Birmingham’s care were placed more than 100 miles away.
The council has said it will consider boarding schools as an alternative to residential care homes.