Thanet could introduce a temporary ban on new foster/residential homes for children being created in Cliftonville West where there are more than 6 people -including carers – on the premises.
The proposal is being put forward as part of Thanet’s Draft Local Plan which Cabinet member at the council are recommending for approval.
The new policy could mean homes in other areas of the isle are also assessed.
A report to Cabinet members which will be discussed on July 2 says: “For some years, vulnerable children have been placed in care in Thanet, notably in Cliftonville.
“Partner organisations, including the police and the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), have become increasingly concerned about the impact of new foster homes, or similar facilities, being located in the district, and in particular, in the Cliftonville area.
“Parts of Margate and Cliftonville experience multiple layers of risk and significant deprivation, and are the subject of substantial inter-agency efforts to improve the environment and lives of people already resident in the area.
“There is evidence that the concentration of these premises in this area causes a range of problems, including:
The children placed in these facilities being at increased risk; Significant impact on, and diversion of, the resources of key agencies, undermining the delivery of core services in the area; and harm to the area in which these homes are located.
“It is therefore recommended that the council include in the publication draft of the Local Plan a policy that introduces a moratorium (temporary prohibition) on new foster homes involving more than 6 people (including carers) in the Cliftonville West Ward; and provides the opportunity for foster homes in other areas of the district to be assessed individually.”
In January this year Paul Luxmoore (pictured), executive head of the Coastal Academies Trust which covers five schools in Thanet, said the isle had a melting pot of deprivation, high numbers of foster carers and residential children’s homes and a large number of looked after children being sent from other parts of the country.
He compared the situation to Rotherham and Rochdale where vulnerable children were exploited by gangs who groomed them for sex. In Thanet’s case Mr Luxmoore said looked after youngsters were being targeted by London drug gangs.
He had rejected requests from a London authority to take looked after children as pupils in his schools because he said he needed to force the issue on to the Government’s agenda.
Kent Police said there are systems and special teams in place to protect the vulnerable but urged people to look out for warning signs of grooming.
Figures obtained by The Isle of Thanet News in December showed a rise from 193 children placed in Thanet by other authorities in December 2016 to 240 in November 2017.
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 had been informed about, 87 were from other Kent districts and 32 were within 20 miles of their hometown.
In response to Mr Luxmoore’s statements, Teresa Morgan, director at Ramsgate-based Family Fostering, said: “Every child is an individual, with strengths as well as vulnerabilities, and it is their right to receive the best possible care, support and education.
“We give careful consideration before placing any child and our stringent matching procedure includes full consideration of the wider environment and risk factors that may determine that the location is not suitable.
“It is important to note that the reason children are placed in Thanet is because there is a high number of very experienced and caring foster families. Family Fostering prides itself on recruiting only those who can fully demonstrate the aptitude and resilience needed to care for children who have experienced trauma and loss.”
She added:“It is important to recognise that looked after children are survivors; often of some of the most horrific experiences imaginable. They should be valued and championed by society, particularly by professionals within social care, education and health services.”
The local plan recommendations from Cabinet on Monday 2 July will go to the Executive, Policy & Community Safety Scrutiny Panel for further consideration before going to Council on Thursday 19 July for a final decision.