ENGLAND – Hampshire foster children ‘sent up to 250 miles away’

Some children in Hampshire are being fostered up to 250 miles (400km) from their homes, a children’s trust said.

In Portsmouth half the children in care are placed outside the city and have been sent as far away as Middlesbrough, the Who Cares Trust said.

Jack Smith, from the trust, said sending children so far away risked putting them in vulnerable positions.

Portsmouth City Council leaders said they were working hard to recruit new foster carers closer by.

‘Moral responsibility’

Councils said they were struggling to find placements for youngsters because of a shortage of local foster carers.

Mr Smith said children placed in care far from home were often more vulnerable than those that could be kept nearby.

He said: “Some children are placed away for safety reasons but there’s a good chunk of children who the local authorities just don’t have the local foster carers or the children’s homes to find places for them.

“It’s really tough for those children, you have to remember that the vast majority of these children did absolutely nothing wrong, they’re going through a really traumatic experience.

“They’re being placed away from everything that’s familiar to them – their friends, grandparents and from their schools and youth clubs.

“The state’s taken these children into care, it’s the state’s moral responsibility to look after them.”

‘First choice’

Mr Smith said despite the council campaigns, fewer people were taking on the fostering role.

“It doesn’t really touch the sides, it’s not a job they do for money – the allowance isn’t rising with inflation,” Mr Smith said.

In Hampshire a foster carer would be given on average about £9,500 a year to cover the cost of looking after a 10 to 15-year-old child.

Children’s services spokesman at Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, said meeting a shortfall in carers sometimes meant it was necessary to place children further away.

He said: “If we have in-house carers – people we know who we’ve trained – then obviously that’s our first choice.

“But sometimes, for specialist reasons of the child and of the needs, we have to go to the specialist carers and they do cost a lot of money – some of these costs are very large.”

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: “We are working hard to recruit as many new foster carers as possible because we recognise that it is better for youngsters to be housed close to their friends and school.

“We are enjoying good success with this recruitment.”

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