Latest Public Sector News

01.06.18

Instability of ‘pinball kids’ exposes them to exploitation and abuse, commissioner warns

Thousands of children are still “pinging around the care system,” changing home, school or social worker over the course of the year.

The Stability Index, published by the children’s commissioner for England today, has revealed that, over the last 12 months, almost 2,400 children have changed home, school and social worker.

Over the last two years, more than 3,000 children have moved home four or more times, and over three years, around 2,500 children moved home five or more times.

Changing school can be incredibly disruptive, with the report finding that around 4,300 children in care moved school in the middle of the school year, with a new school an average of 24 miles away as a result.

Consequently, around 400 children who moved school missed a whole term as a result.

Older children appear to be at most risk of instability, requiring additional support to prevent placements from breaking down.

The report highlights the importance of getting children in care into the best schools, with those at poor-performing schools more likely to experience a school move, and less likely to move to a better school, whereas those in good schools are less likely to move, but where they do, it is usually to another good school.

The Stability Index was created by the children’s commissioner last year to encourage councils to hold themselves to account for children moving around the system, and work towards improving the system and the lives of children in care.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said: “Every day I hear from ‘pinball kids’ who are being pinged around the care system when all they really want is to be settled and to get on with normal life.

“These children need stability, yet far too many are living unstable lives, in particular children entering care in their early teens.”

This puts them at a greater risk of falling through gaps in the education system and can expose them to exploitation by gangs or to abuse, she warned.

“I would also like to see Ofsted assessing the stability of children in care as part of their inspections and for the department for education to start asking for data on this in their annual returns from local authorities,” she added.

Responding to the report, Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said that councils are supporting record numbers of children and young people through the care system, with 90 children entering the system each day last year.

He also called on the government to support councils to provide the best possible experience for children in care, saying that it is “disappointing the report makes little mention of this or recognises the funding pressures and demand facing council children’s services.”

Watts concluded: “A national workforce strategy would go a long way towards addressing the shortage of children’s social workers. We would also like to see a national recruitment campaign for foster carers to make sure we have a choice of families to place children with to best meet their needs.”

Top image: monkeybusinessimages

 

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