BECOME, the leading national charity for children in care and young care leavers, is sounding the alarm on the numbers of children and young people being moved at Christmas. The charity is calling for “urgent and ambitious action to ensure children in care have the love, support and stability they need to thrive”.

New research reveals a ‘deeply unsettling’ number of children and young people in care are moved at Christmas. Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were sent by the charity to local authorities in England and found:

  • Over 2,139 children were moved or came into care between 18 Dec 2022 and 3 Jan 2023 (on average 134 children a day).
  • At least 898 children in England came into the care system over the Christmas period (on average 58 children a day).
  • On average, more than one in four (28 per cent) of children who changed placements were moved more than 20 miles away.
    Some children were moved more than once during the Christmas period.

Whilst instability is an issue all year round and getting worse – during 2022-2023 there were a total of 57,690 ‘placement changes’ in England, up from 54,620 the year before – such moves over the Christmas period can be particularly difficult and increase feelings of anxiety and isolation in care experienced children.

One young person Become supports said: “In some ways I am looking forward to being free from home and feeling safe, but by the time Christmas arrives I will have moved into my fourth home within the space of eight months…”

These moves can be abrupt, and not the child’s choice, exacerbating feelings of being unsettled and uprooted. It can also lead to difficulty in forming relationships, for the children to feel safe, secure and connected to the people around them. It increases feelings that they have little agency over their lives and their futures.

Katharine Sacks-Jones, CEO of Become, says: “Being moved at any time can create huge instability and insecurity for children in the care system, who often go through this alone and are moved without warning. It can make children feel as though they have no agency over their lives, that their relationships and connections can be uprooted at any time.

“But to be moved at Christmas, as friends enjoy family meals, gifts and the usual festive cheer is even more heartbreaking. It can make the difficulty and isolation of the season even more severe.

“Our Settled at Christmas report should be a wakeup call for Government to address the instability children in the care system are facing as a matter of urgency. As a first step, government must make a commitment to reduce the number of moves children in the care system experience, so that children are moved to homes that are suitable for them to begin with, in an appropriate location, which meet all their needs.”

* Read the Settled at Christmas report here.

* Source: Become