Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Scandal of Care Children 'Exported to Danger'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Scandal of Care Children 'Exported to Danger'

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor

SPECIAL INVESTIGATION Evening Standard THE STANDARD today exposes the scandal of London children being "exported" to care homes across the country where they are at increased risk of abuse.

Almost two thirds of youngsters taken into care are sent outside their borough and evidence shows some are being maltreated and introduced to drugs.

The investigation reveals children in the capital are twice as likely to be sent "out of area" despite warnings from police and children's charities that this places them in greater danger.

Critics today accused London boroughs of sending children as far away as Sunderland to save money and due to local shortages of foster parents.

Out of 10,390 children looked after by London boroughs last year, only 3,870 went to homes within the authority's boundaries, official figures reveal.

Some 6,190, or 60 per cent, were placed outside the borough. For inner London, the proportion was 68 per cent, compared with a UK average of 35 per cent. Almost a fifth were sent more than 20 miles outside their home borough, again above the UK average. A placement in a private home may cost [pounds sterling]35,000 a year, rising to [pounds sterling]250,000 for a child with severe needs.

Enver Solomon, director of policy at the Children's Society, said: "Children are being moved around like chess pieces on a board, and not on the basis of their needs.

"If a child is placed a long way from home, he or she is more likely to run away [and] get into risky situations out on the street, being preyed on by dangerous individuals.

"These are often children who have suffered neglect and abuse. If they are moved to another part of the country it means them being wrenched from their school and the community where they have friends or important bonds."

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information show London boroughs had 1,244 children in care homes in Kent -- 228 to Thanet, which includes Margate on the coast. They included 16 from Newham, 12 from Lewisham and 10 each from Hounslow and Hillingdon.

Kent county council has protested about numbers "exported" to Thanet.

Andrew Somers, head teacher at Hartsdown Technology College, in Margate, said he was turning away London children. "I'm saying no -- no more outof-area placements. Legally I probably should not do that. But take me to court -- I'll win the moral high ground."

Most of the children were living on the Cliftonville estate near the school. Mr Somers said: "It is one of the most deprived wards in the UK and I have seen a map of the area pinpricked with children's homes set up in a square mile where there are known paedophiles and drug dealers." Some 110 known former offenders and registered sex offenders have been recorded as living in two wards -- Cliftonville and Margate Central. …

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