Children and Families Minister Edward Timpson has called on councils told to stop housing vulnerable children miles away from home after announcing new residential care rules.
The new rules aimed at making residential care safer and putting an end to unnecessary out-of-area placements for vulnerable children will come into force this month.
These changes form part government’s response to the consultation on residential care reform and, according to Timpson, will result in much stricter scrutiny of councils’ decisions about where children are placed.
Announcing the changes, the Children and Families Minister said: "It’s totally unacceptable for local authorities to routinely place children miles away from their homes for no good reason. Far too often an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ culture prevails, and I’m determined to tackle it.
"In future, only senior council officials in charge of children’s services will be able to place children out of area and only when they judge it to be the right decision for a child to be moved away from their home area. There will be one individual in each local authority who is directly accountable for these decisions. There is still more work to be done, and I expect councils and care homes to rise to the challenge."
As part of the changes there will also be reduced secrecy around residential care with the government pledging to put more information in the public domain than ever before on the location and quality of homes and working with Ofsted to improve inspection.
The change to the regulations will come into force at the end of January and is one part of a wider package of reforms including:
•introducing rules so homes must tell councils when children move into and out of the area
•changing the regulations so new homes only open in safe areas, run by competent providers and ensuring homes already open in less safe areas evidence that they can keep children safe, or face closure
•improving the quality of care by requiring staff and managers in homes to be suitably qualified within a strict time frame
•working with Ofsted to strengthen their inspection and intervention powers so ‘good’ is the only acceptable standard, and unsafe homes close unless they can evidence swift improvement
•putting much greater information on the quality and location of children’s homes into the public domain - this autumn we published an extended data pack to improve accountability and drive improvements by sharing best practice
The implementation of residential care reforms builds on the action the government took in 2013 to improve the quality of care and outcomes for all looked-after children and young people leaving care such as the introduction of the pupil premium plus scheme and Junior Independent Savings Account.