A surge in the number of children in care being placed in Thanet by other local authorities has prompted North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale to raise the issue in the House of Commons.
The veteran MP says he has spoken to ministers about the “concerning rise” of youngsters being placed on the isle – with many being more than the recommended maximum of 20 miles from their homes.
During the last year there has been a rise from 193 children placed in Thanet by other authorities in December 2016 to 240 in November this year.
The numbers could be higher as Kent County Council has to rely on outside authorities informing them of the placements when figures are collated – and this does not always occur.
Of the children KCC has been informed about, 87 were from other Kent districts and 32 were within 20 miles of their hometown.
But Sir Roger says there is a worrying increase of youngsters from London boroughs and authorities even further afield.
He said: “Figures from Kent council social services show there was a drop but now this is on the increase again.
“There is growing concern about this and I have taken it up in the Commons and spoken to Ministers.
“This goes back a long way when then-director of social services, Peter Gilroy, carried out the Thanet Report in 2004.”
That report revealed Thanet had “7 times the number of Looked After Children as the most affluent areas of Kent” in 2003/04.
At that time some 35 children’s homes were recorded on the isle – all privately owned- and of the 626 looked after children in Thanet just 276 actually came from the isle.
A county council report some six years later showed a continuing trend of young people in care, particularly those aged between 11 and 17, being placed in Kent and Thanet from London boroughs.
Ten boroughs consistently placed 10% or more of their looked after children in the county.
These were Bexley (28.8%),Greenwich (21.5%),Havering (16.5%), Lewisham (14.3%), Waltham Forest (12.1%), Newham (11.3%), Sutton (11.2%), Hounslow (10.9%), Islington (10.5%), Merton (10.4%) and Bromley (10%).
Sir Roger says Kent has more than sufficient difficulties absorbing a once-again rising number of `looked-after children` for which the London Boroughs have failed to make provision.
He said the impact of this is felt not just by businesses and residents but by the children themselves.
He said: “Unless there is a risk of mental or physical assault young people are better off in their own ‘manor’ than being transferred out of area.
“They have no sense of ownership when they are moved to places like Westgate and Cliftonville, often with social services getting no notification from the boroughs. There is often no provision made for education and health care and there is an additional use of police resources to deal with troubled or missing children.
“It is a subject of concern that has been expressed to me by my constituents. We have our own problems without boroughs sending their cared for children to Thanet when they should be making provision for those children themselves.”
In March a Corporate Parenting Panel meeting at Kent County Council revealed that a member of the panel had lobbied ministers and MPs on the issue of tracing out of authority placements and was also due to raise the issue with Ofsted.
The issue of large numbers of children in care being placed in Kent by other local authorities has also been raised with the Children’s Commissioner for England.
I am afraid that Sir Roger Gale has been once again brought out by the local schools to re-energise their favourite hobby horse, looked after children.
There are indeed a substantial number of foster children in Kent and Thanet indeed approximately 80% of the looked after children are in foster care some of which we provide care for. This is comparable to National figures with less than 4,000 young people in children homes and approaching 70,000 in foster care.
Sir Roger fails to mention that Kent County Council took the decision to close all their children’s homes some years ago. Kent uses the private and voluntary sector and also places a smaller, but significant number of young people out of county to other authorities. Indeed, authorities where there is even less ‘provision for education and health care’.
The comment that Sir Roger makes “Unless there is a risk of mental or physical assault young people are better off in their own ‘manor’ than being transferred out of area, is naïve at best.
Young people are placed in the foster home or residential home that best meets their needs. I am unclear whether Sir Roger is objecting to young people in care more generally or young people in care in Kent who are not indigenous to Kent. I assume from the language it is the latter.
What Sir Roger should address is the decision by the Kent consortium of head teachers to keep looked after children out of education. Sir Roger has, according to the head teachers, supported and campaigned to ensure that looked after children are kept out of Thanet and Kent schools.
Indeed, although the schools Admissions Code 2014 defines that looked after children are the highest priority for education, Sir Roger and the headteachers have apparently worked tirelessly to block these young people receiving an education. Their rationale I understand is that if they can prevent a young person receiving education for long enough the damage is such that the placing authority will take them back to county. It is extremely unsettling to me that these head teachers, who have arguably spent their careers ensuring young people are educated have become so embroiled in their political battle that they have lost their way.
There is of course a particular irony here. According Kent Education Department, whilst there are spaces in many year groups in Thanet schools, young people who are looked after are prevented from taking these places up.
For a young person to be prevented from receiving an education that is legally and morally their right, one may ask what one has to do. Simply become looked after, indeed the threshold to ‘lose’ your right to education is set very low it appears.
You need to have had a difficult life, suffered abuse or neglect, gone through the trauma of being separated from your family, brothers and sisters and home. Once looked after you apparently lose your right to live in the place best able to support you and your rights to education and a future.
I am aware from recent news that one of Sir Rogers consortium heads is currently being directed by the Secretary of State to take a young person that the school was attempting to block. I have little doubt that this has invigorated Sir Roger and resulted in this recent campaign.
As one of your constituents Sir Roger, this current campaign……………. not in my name.
Education certainly should be addressed. But as a child in care sent to Westgate for purely economic reasons, with no ties to the area, I think this side of the issue has to be looked at. There was a pledge to keep kids in a 20 mile radius of their homes whenever possible and this is not being kept to. I, and every other kid, in that home were sent from boroughs many more miles away than 20. Which is why I have written this article, because the system as a whole needs to be looked at
As a current child in care i can honestly say that being moved to Ramsgate has helped me get my life back on track. The area i lived in was unsafe, dangerous and i was scared to go to school through fear of being beaten up. Not all children in care are “Bad” and it is worrying that Mr Gale is so prejudice against children in care. Maybe to balance things up the care homes could give their point of view? I dont attend a Manstream school i attend one that my borough pay for and i dont go missing or cost anyone anything. In fact me being here actually means Thanet people are employed to help look after me. Some great famous people have come from care homes and i think this is unfair. Also Kent places kids in Wales???
Hi Miss C. The point of the article is to show the whole system needs looking at. I am a former kid in care sent to Thanet. My story differs to yours, it will because we are all individuals. I have tried talking to care home providers before but they are not keen to be in the public eye. The point of the article is not to say kids in care are bad, it doesn’t say that anywhere. The point is those in charge are not adhering to the pledges they themselves have made. I’m glad it is working out for you.
You should try to arrange a meeting with my care home they would meet and talk to you im sure. Last week we had a local councillor come and meet us and she seemed really nice
Suzanne Brimm. I’ll ask her to pass along a message.
It was Suzanne Brimm. I’ll ask her to pass a message along
I agree with you Kathy, It always has to be the right place and financial reasons or the geography alone should not be the driver. I am absolutely not an advocate for simply moving young people out of authority. This decision should be addressed with that particular authority. My issue that is once young people arrive wherever that is, we cannot stop them attending school by blocking their education or opportunity’s to turn their lives around.
Like it or not we must do the best for these young people that we can. The political augments between authorities should not be played out through these young people.
I absolutely agree. Kids in residential care are often isolated from the community, schooled within the homes, and I think that is totally wrong
With you all the way on this one Miss C.
It’s fantastic that got your life back on track and I don’t think that Sir Roger is wantonly against looked after children, I just don’t think he understands them and their needs. We have seen so many young people find their way in our fostering services.
It is time that these schools woke up to how their actions of stopping looked after young people getting an education impact on their futures. I contacted a Thanet school recently and inquired if one of our looked after children could have one of the empty places. I was told that the school did not take out of county looked after children. They didn’t want to know anything about the young person, other than they were looked after. Outrageous.