NEW data released by the Department for Education (DfE) shows a continued and significant rise in the numbers of children in care moved more than 20 miles from their local area and sent to live somewhere they do not know, often alone and without warning.

Despite promises from the Government to reform children’s social care, Become Charity is highlighting that these statistics are moving in the wrong direction and with a 23 per cent rise of children coming into care since 2013, urgent action is needed to turn this around.

Government figures show that, as at 31 March 2023:

  • Across England, 17,630 children in care had been moved more than 20 miles away from home. That is over 21 per cent of all children in care.
  • There has been a 62 per cent increase in the numbers of children in care in England moved more than 20 miles away compared to 2013. In the same period, the overall number of children in care increased by 23 per cent.
  • In some areas, moving children more than 20 miles away has become commonplace: in 19 local authorities in England, more than a third of children were living more than 20 miles away.
  • Children in the care of local authorities in the East of England, the South West, the South East and the East Midlands were most likely to have been placed more than 20 miles away.

Become’s #GoneTooFar report, based on data from local authorities, shows the average child in care in England is placed more than 18 miles from their local area and the school, friends, family and networks that matter to them – equivalent to the distance from Birmingham to Coventry, with some children moved more than 500 miles away.

The new DfE figures reveal the situation is only getting worse, with more children than ever before being moved far away not because it is in their best interests – but because of a lack of suitable places locally.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, Chief Executive of Become, the national charity for children in care and young care leavers, says: “All children need love and stability to thrive. But just imagine being moved far away from your local area, often without warning, to an area you don’t know, far away from everything that matters to you.

“Being moved can be incredibly disruptive to children’s education and relationships – including with brothers and sisters who might live miles away. Young people tell us how lonely and isolated it makes them feel and the real impact it can have on their mental health.

“A decade of data paints a worrying picture of this happening more and more often – it’s unacceptable that children are being moved away, not because it’s the right decision for them, but because there are no suitable options closer.

“Government must take urgent action to stop these numbers from continuing to get worse. We need a national commitment and strategy to keep children close to the people and places that matter to them.”

* Read the Department for Education digital release here.

* Read the Gone Too Far report here.

* Information on the #GoneTooFar campaign here.

* Source: Become