To ask Her Majesty's Government what mechanisms are in place to ensure that local authorities carry out their duties as set out in the Children Act 1989.
9 September 2019
This answer is a correction from the original answer.
Where a child cannot live at home, it is one of the state’s most important responsibilities to ensure that the child is kept safe and able to flourish. All looked-after children should have a secure, stable and loving family environment to support them through childhood and beyond and to give them a sense of security, continuity, identity and belonging. The Children and Social Work Act (2017) sets out ‘corporate parenting principles’ to which local authorities should have regard as they take on the role of parent to looked-after children and care leavers.
The assumption that children in public care should ever be treated as a financial asset is a false premise. Local authorities have a legal duty to make decisions on care placements based on where their individual needs can be met. While children should be placed close to home where this is possible and appropriate, it can often be the right option for a placement further away from home. This might be, for example, when a child requires specialist care that is not always available locally or is at risk of exploitation.
Where children are placed out of area, this must be agreed to by the local authority’s Director of Children’s Services, and the placing authority must inform the host local authority. We are providing funding through our £200 million Innovation Programme to increase local authorities’ capacity so fewer children are placed far away from home.
We are committed to ensuring that looked-after children are supported to succeed in education and statutory guidance is clear in recognising the importance of stability in education. When arranging a suitable care placement, a child’s social worker, supported by local authority management and resources, should do everything possible to minimise disruption to the child’s education. Where a child is in key stage 4, children should only be moved in exceptional circumstances.
Ofsted inspect how well local authorities are meeting their duties for looked-after children under the Children Act (1989). Under their current inspection framework, they focus on the effectiveness of local authority services and arrangements in order to help and protect children.
The inspection framework also addresses the experiences and progress of children in care wherever they live, including those children who return home, as well as arrangements for permanence for looked-after children and the experiences and progress of care leavers. In addition, they evaluate the effectiveness of leaders and managers and the impact they have on the lives of children and young people, and the quality of professional practice.
It has not proved possible to respond to this question in the time available before Prorogation. Ministers will correspond directly with the Member.