The Children and Families Minister, Edward Timpson, has today announced that new residential care rules will come into force at the end of this month. The rules will put an end to vulnerable children being given placements which are unnecessarily far from their homes. As a result of the rules, councils will be under far stricter scrutiny as to where children in their region are placed.
Announcing the changes, Mr Timpson said: ‘It's totally unacceptable for local authorities to routinely place children miles away 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 to be the right decision for a child to be moved away from their home area. There will be one individual in each local authority who is directly accountable for these decisions.'
The change to the regulations is said to be part of a wider package of reforms and in addition the government are working closely with Ofsted to strengthen their inspection and intervention powers so that ‘good' is the only acceptable standard for the homes. They are also introducing new rules so that homes must tell councils when children move in and out of the area, homes can only open in safe areas run by competent providers and much more information on the quality and location of children's homes will be put into the public domain.
The government took various measures in 2013 in order to improve the quality of care and outcomes for looked-after children and young people leaving care, including allowing all children in care to stay with their foster families after they turn 18 following a £40 million funding boost and placing a new legal duty on councils to provide support. They also introduced the Junior Independent Savings Account for all care leavers and the pupil premium plus for children in care from the start of their placement providing them with £1,900 extra in order to support their education.