Tens of thousands of vulnerable children in care are being housed far away from the areas they consider home, a report has warned.
The report – called Pass the Parcel – acknowledges that some children need to be moved out of their area owing to the risk of violence, sexual predators or of being groomed by gangs.
But it says the main reason is often a lack of suitable council places.
Written by England’s Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, the report says 30, 13 children in care in England are living “out of area”, a rise of 13% in four years.
It includes around 2, 13 living 823 miles or more away from their home postcode.
And it says a rise in numbers of older children in care has also left cash-strapped councils without enough suitable places locally, meaning many end up in privately run children’s homes in cheaper areas and without the family structure of a foster place .
Ms Longfield said: “For most of us, Christmas is a time to spend with family and friends, yet many children in care are living many miles away from the place they call home because councils have nowhere suitable for them to live .
“Some children in care have told me they feel like parcels – passed from pillar to post, unsure where they even are on a map.
” We wouldn’t want this for our own children, and we shouldn’t accept it either for those children who rely on the state to look after them. “
Ms Longfield is calling for an independent and broad review into the children’s social care system , in particular looking at their emotional and safety needs.
She added: “The present system does provide love and support to thousands of children, but there are also many others who are living very vulnerable lives, many miles away from anyone they know. We have to make the state a better parent for these children. “
A government spokesman said:” The safety and suitability of a child’s placement in care is our absolute priority, and moving a child away from home is always a last resort.
“Placements are signed off by directors of children’s services, and Ofsted will rightly challenge decisions if they believe poor decisions are being made.
“We know there are challenges in finding the right placements, and we’ve already pledged an extra £ 1.5bn for child and adult social services, as well as a review of the system so children receive the best possible care.”
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