Stopping the Placement of London Children in Thanet

After campaigning hard on the out of area placement of looked-after children in Thanet, I am delighted that the Education Secretary has announced thst he will be looking at many of the issues I have raised, particularly children being placed out of borough.

I was extremely pleased to discuss these issues with Mr Gove when he visited Cliftonville earlier on this year. I was able to provide him with a comprehensive overview of the challenges in the area and put forward our concerns about the placing of vulnerable children in inappropriate surroundings.

I will be looking at the report being issued very closely and will keep pushing for the changes needed in our area.

 

Success in Thanet MPs’ Campaign as Councils Told to Stop Placing Vulnerable Children Outside Area

3rd January 2014

Thanet’s  MPs, Laura Sandys and Sir Roger Gale, have expressed their strong support for the Government’s decision to crack down on the irresponsible and unnecessary out of area placements of looked-after children in Thanet.

Speaking shortly after the Department for Education’s announcement of new measures to increase scrutiny over such decisions, which currently rest with local authorities, Laura said:

“There are some great care providers in our area, but placements from outside the community rarely benefit the children in question and place an unfair burden on the people of Thanet. For that reason we have been campaigning tirelessly on this issue - challenging the councils which make the irresponsible placements and appealing to the Government to take robust action.

“Last year I welcomed Michael Gove MP, the Secretary of State for Education, to Thanet to see the issues we are facing first hand. I am very glad that the Secretary of State has been so responsive to our needs and is taking rigorous steps to make sure that out-of-area placements will now be publicly registered, highly scrutinised and signed off only in the most exceptional and appropriate circumstances.

“This announcement is excellent news for our area and a reflection that the Government has listened to our concerns and truly understands the need for special protection for children in care.”

Sir Roger added:

“We, together with Kent County Council, have been challenging the concept of the out-of-area placement of cared-for children since the publication of the first Thanet report many years ago. The Conservative Leader of Thanet Council at that time, together with Kent`s Director of Social Services and I raised this during a personal meeting with Labour`s then Minister of State.  We agreed the principle that children in need of foster care should only be placed out of area under exceptional circumstances but, sadly, that principle has not been followed and as a result vulnerable young people have been placed in establishments located cheek-by-jowl with registered sex offenders. I am delighted that Laura was able to persuade the Secretary of State to see the situation for himself and that, as a result, effective measures will now be put in place to secure the safety of the young people and to put an end to the strain on the limited resources of East Kent”.

 

Sandys Welcomes Education Secretary’s Announcement on Quality of Care Homes

13th September 2013

After many years campaigning on this, Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet, today welcomed the Education Secretary’s announcement that the Government will be implementing a series of measures to improve the quality of care for our looked after children. 

The Education Secretary has announced that he will be:

  • Re-examining the rules that prevent basic information being shared about who is responsible for children’s homes and the quality of them;
  • Looking at the location of children’s homes, particularly those homes in areas with above average crime rates;
  • Changing rules so that councils, the police and children’s homes providers carry out risk assessments of the location of new homes;
  • Reviewing why so many children are located out of borough, with some sent over 20miles away from home.

Speaking after the announcement, Laura said: “I am delighted that the Education Secretary will be looking at many of the issues I have raised, particularly children being placed out of borough. I was extremely pleased to discuss these issues with Mr Gove when he visited Cliftonville earlier on this year. I was able to provide him with a comprehensive overview of the challenges in the area and put forward our concerns about the placing of vulnerable children in inappropriate surroundings. I will be looking at the report being issued very closely and will keep pushing for the changes needed in our area.”

 

Laura Sandys Welcomes Secretary of State for Education to Thanet

21st January 2013

Laura Sandys MP welcomed the Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, to Thanet on Friday. During his visit, Mr Gove went to Cliftonville Primary School and later discussed issues surrounding looked after children.

 

Laura said: “It was great to have the Secretary of State in Thanet, and to show him the excellent work being undertaken at one of our local primary schools. I know that he was very impressed with the work going on at Cliftonville Primary. Mrs Troth, Headteacher, and Mr Somers, Executive Head, provided Mr Gove with a tour of the school emphasising their work on literacy from an early age and the special programme in place to teach English as an Additional Language for children from Eastern European backgrounds.

 

“I  was also pleased to have the opportunity to discuss issues surrounding looked after children with the Secretary of State. The Margate Taskforce provided him with a very comprehensive overview of the challenges in the area and we all put forward our concerns about the placing of vulnerable children in inappropriate surroundings. This is an issue which I have long been pushing on and the discussion we had was extremely productive.

Photo: Peter Barnett

“The Secretary of State very much enjoyed his visit to the constituency and I will be following up with him on several of the points we discussed in order that the concerns raised are addressed”.

 

Sandys Welcomes Better Protection for Looked After Children and Greater Scrutiny on the Placement of

21st May 2012

 

Laura Sandys MP is continuing to campaign hard on the out of area placement of looked-after children in Thanet, and was very pleased to obtain a meeting with the Minister for Children, Edward Timpson MP, to discuss the progress of the Quality Expert Group for Looked After Children and Young People. In addition, she is asking questions to Ministers on the placement of prisoners released and placed in Thanet.

Laura said: “I was really pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the Minister who thoroughly understood the problems Thanet has been facing in regards to this issue. For too long we have seen disproportionately high numbers of looked after children being placed in our area by Councils from around the country. This is not only unfair on Thanet but also on these children who have already had their worlds turned upside down and would very often benefit from being close to their family and friends in familiar surroundings. Huge progress is now being made in doing what is right for our communities and for looked after children. The Government is really listening to the concerns of many.”

Today Laura also asked for special attention for Thanet in terms of probation placements. She has received assurances from the Minister as well.

The Minister for Children informed Laura that he is seeking to introduce widespread changes, particularly targeting those distant out of area placements. These include:

  • Strengthening regulations so that out of area placements must be agreed at a senior level within a council’s children’s services;
  • The placing authority must consult with the local authority to ensure that the placement will genuinely meet the needs of the child concerned;
  • Better information sharing will ensure that homes have to inform their local authority whenever a child enters or leaves their care. Local authorities should also have a stronger role in scrutinising quality assurance arrangements, receiving reports about the quality of homes on a monthly basis;
  • Laura has been campaigning to bring the issue of unsuitable areas for children’s homes to the Government’s attention. The Minister now plans to consult on changing the process for registering a home, meaning the location’s suitability must be considered before a home opens.

The Minister for Prisons and Rehabilitation, Jeremy Wright MP, has instigated an assessment of every prisoner relocated into Thanet and a risk analysis so we have a full commitment to reducing releases into our community.

The Secretary of State for Justice, the Rt. Hon Chris Grayling MP, has also announced legislation requiring every offender released from custody to receive at least a year of supervision and rehabilitation in the community.

Laura said “I very much welcome these changes. After much campaigning, things are really moving in the right direction and I’ll be continuing to push hard to ensure that we are protecting the interests and safety our local communities as well as the vulnerable children in our care.”

 
 
 
 

Sandys and Gale: Minister Takes Action to Strengthen Protection for Vulnerable Children in Care.

Margate police ‘Risk-Mapping’ to be rolled out across the country
3rd July 2012
After a long campaign against the out-of-area placement of looked-after children, Sir Roger Gale and Laura Sandys, MPs for Thanet, have this (Tuesday) morning  welcomed the announcement by the Department for Education of a  review of the appalling situation that permits children to be placed hundreds of miles away from their home areas into extremely deprived neighbourhoods.
Laura and Roger, who have worked closely with Thanet police and Headteachers on the issue said: “The shocking events in Rochdale were a real wake-up call to Government that enough was enough. We can no longer tolerate  this Dickensian situation that allows vulnerable children to be relocated   without any assessment of whether that environment is safe or suitable.
"In Thanet, we have 243 children in care from outside the area . This has placed a big burden on the police and schools who are often not informed about these vulnerable children arriving in East Kent"
“On Newsnight and in meetings with the Minister for Children, Tim Loughton MP, we have called for three policy changes to ensure the safety of vulnerable children. Today, we have secured a real victory as each of  these policies will be considered through a Departmental Working Group. We are hopeful that this policy change will ensure that Thanet is no longer a centre for looked after children and that vulnerable children are homed in the safest most appropriate environments as close to home as practicable. Government has listened and responded to the challenges we have faced locally with a clear set of policies to prevent child sexual exploitation.”
The Department for Education’s Report, ‘Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation Action Plan’ outlines three key issues to enhance protections for children in care:
1.    New arrangements for better data sharing between different agencies;
 
2.    Barriers in regulation removed so Ofsted can share locations of children’s homes with police;
 
3.    New task and finish group to review placement planning and out of area placements by Sept. The group will focus on how authorities can undertake “risk mapping” – as piloted in Margate - for those areas where there are high concentrations of children’s homes to assess the general safety of these communities for vulnerable children.
 
You can view Laura discussing Looked After Children in Margate on Newsnight here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01jxx2d/Newsnight_13_06_2012/
 
 

Laura Sandys MP Calls for Action against Local Authorities who place Children out of area

Staggered that Local Authorities place Looked-After Children in areas of multiple deprivation
14th June 2012
Laura Sandys, the MP for South Thanet, continued her campaign against the out of area placement oflooked-after children and raised the issue with the Minister for Children, Tim Loughton MP, in a House of Commons debate yesterday.   The issue was also covered on a Newsnight special feature highlighting the additional vulnerability faced by the children when placed hundreds of miles away from their home areas and in extremely deprived neighbourhoods. 
Laura Sandys MP said, “This issue has gone on for too long and desperately needs to be resolved.  In Thanet we now have a situation where 243 vulnerable children from outside the area have been placed hundreds of miles from their original homes.”
“Recognising my ongoing commitment to this issue, the Minister said “[Laura Sandys MP] has become something of expert in this matter because it is an issue in her constituency, as it is in mine. As a result of her approaches and events in Rochdale and other alarming cases, we will announce shortly... the results of the additional work done by the Deputy Children’s Commissioner on how we ensure that children are placed out of area only when appropriate, and when they can be safely and appropriately looked after. That should happen at the moment, but it does not in practice.”
Newsnight also looked at this issue in last night’s episode.  Laura Sandys, speaking on the programme, said that it is “staggering” that other Councils would be so irresponsible as to send their most vulnerable children from difficult families to an area that is clearly not a suitable environment. 
“There are three key issues that needs to be fully addressed to ensure greater safety for vulnerable looked after children:
·         SAFETY BEYOND THE HOME: There needs to be a thorough assessment of the environment into which the children are being placed.  OFSTED only currently assess the home not the neighbourhood. [on Newsnight the head of OFSTED said that he does believe that they should look at the environment not just the immediate location in assessing suitability of children homes] 
·         INFORMING THE LOCAL AUTHORITY AND POLICE: The placing Local Authority must inform the local authority and the police BEFORE they locate new children in an area with full case notes and relevant information.  OFSTED should also inform the police of the location of any children’s homes.
·         GREATER ENFORCEMENT AND PENALTIES OF EXISTING 20 MILE RULE: There needs to be much greater enforcement of the 20 mile limit on the placement of children and methods of penalising local authorities who do not make adequate provision for children within their area.  Mr Loughton agrees that this final issue has not been correctly enforced for many years.
You can view the Newsnight piece on looked-after children here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01jxx2d/Newsnight_13_06_2012/
 
Hansard, Wednesday 13th June, 2012.
Laura Sandys (South Thanet) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that moving looked-after children from one local authority to another creates greater difficulty, namely ensuring that case notes are transferred and that the conversation between the different agencies is sustained? When children are moved, their longer-term safety is eroded because of the distance and lack of contact between the source local authority and the receiving one.
 
Tim Loughton: My hon. Friend knows exactly what I think about that—we have discussed it at length. She has become something of expert in this matter because it is an issue in her constituency, as it is in mine. As a result of her approaches and events in Rochdale and other alarming cases, we will announce shortly, as I told the Committee yesterday, the results of the additional work done by the Deputy Children’s Commissioner on how we ensure that children are placed out of area only when appropriate, and when they can be safely and appropriately looked after. That should happen at the moment, but it does not in practice. The sufficiency principle, which we have overhauled once, needs more work. I will be happy to make those announcements in detail within the next few weeks, because this is a serious matter.
 
 
 
Sandys: “Government must do more to curb tide of looked after children sent to Thanet.”
 
23rd November 2011
 

 

In Monday’s education questions, Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet and Sandwich, urged the Government to go further to deter local authorities from placing children in care outside their own local authorities. She called on the Department to consider what more could be done to ensure region’s have sufficient foster placements to cater to their own needs.  

For years, Thanet was the destination of choice for many London Boroughs to re-home their looked after children. In April, the Government brought into force new statutory guidance which placed a duty on local authorities to, wherever possible, place children in care within their own local authority. 

Laura said: “By introducing new guidance to encourage authorities to re-home children in care within their own local area, the Government has made great headway in addressing what had become a real problem in Thanet. We have started to see the number of vulnerable young people from outside the area decrease – in July 2010, there were 237 looked after children, by August 2011 this had reduced to 222. Many authorities have hugely improved by increasing their own care provision, but others such as Greenwich have increased the number of children they have sent to Thanet by 30.”

“Thanet has its own issues - both local police and teachers have expressed concerns that the vulnerable young people from outside the area are placing a real strain on local services. Affordable housing has meant that looked after children have sadly become an industry in Thanet – people have been profiting. Not only is it important that deprived areas are not forced to deal with other region’s issues, but the charity Barnardos is clear that children are happiest when they stay close to their friends and school. For the benefit of children and Thanet’s public services, we need to stop the placement of looked after children outside their local authority boundaries.”


 
Laura Sandys MP meets with the Minister for Children and Young Families
 
14th September, 2010
 
 
 
 
 
Laura Sandys, MP for South Thanet, has met  with Tim Loughton, Minister for Children and Young Families,  to discuss the placement of looked after children in Thanet by other local authorities and has learned that regulations restricting out-of-area placement will come into force in April 2011.
Laura says: “I was extremely encouraged by the education department’s commitment to ensure that London authorities, in particular, stop sending their looked after children to Thanet. We will be taking steps to compel these authorities to make adequate provision in their own  locality for those children rather than locate them in Thanet.
 
And North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, adds: “Across Thanet, the impact of out of area looked after children has, for far too many years, been considerable placing a huge burden on local education, health, and policing services. I very much hope that from April next year we will see a dramatic reduction in young people being “dumped”  in Thanet so far from their extended families, friends and schools. As a result of the incoming guidelines, I believe that we will see a significant benefit quite quickly in the area.”
 
This is particularly relevant at this time as several residents have raised concerns about proposals for a new children’s home in Ramsgate that might well attract children from out of the area. On behalf of local people, Laura will be relaying to the children’s home company and to KCC the Coalition Government’s strong position on halting out of area placements. 
 
Laura said: “It is not acceptable to place more vulnerable young people in Thanet from out of the area and we are determined to ensure that this proposal will not be successful. I raised this particular local case with the Minister and he was adamant that this sort of practice must be stopped. We will be writing to the company to ensure that they are very clear about the new regulations that will stop them taking children from London and placing them in the heart of Ramsgate.”
 

 
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