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GOVE, Michael blue sky

Most children in care are placed with foster carers. But around 5,000 of them are in institutional care, residential children’s homes. Placements in children’s homes are hugely expensive. While the Prime Minister’s salary is £142,500 a year, the annual cost of placing a child in a children’s home is around £150,000. Furthermore, children’s homes produce the worst outcomes. Research indicates high numbers go missing, are involved in crime, and perform badly at school.

A report in 2006, Care Matters said:

The educational outcomes of children whose last placement is in residential care are even worse than those of other Looked After children, with 73% failing to get even a single GCSE.

Around 27 per cent of adult prisoners have spent time in care. It would be interesting to see research on the comparable probabilities for those in foster care versus children’s homes.

But surely we already have enough evidence to show that the number of children placed in children’s homes should be at the minimum possible.

Yet according to results I have obtained from Freedom of Information requests, 39 per cent of children in children’s homes are in mainstream education. That strongly suggests that it would be viable for them to be placed with foster carers. If a child is sufficiently normal to be at a normal school, would it really be impossible to find foster carers capable of providing a home for him?

Considerably more children in care are in mainstream schools than are in Pupil Referral Units. Not that it should be assumed to be impossible for children in PRUs to be placed with foster carers (or, indeed, for adoption).  Similarly for children in special needs schools.

Some of the councils responded (reasonably enough) giving the proportion of children in care, who are of school age, in mainstream education. In Sutton, all the children in children’s homes are pre-school. Again it should not be assumed that it is impossible for these babies and toddlers and two-year-olds to be placed with foster carers or for adoption.

Each child is different. Some of us behaved quite differently at school to home. It may well be that some of those in mainstream education are highly disruptive and should be excluded. All I would urge is that the presumption should be against children’s home placement and that a rigorous review be made for each of those 1,613 children in mainstream education, but residing in children’s home.

Instead of being the exception, in some councils the great majority of children’s home residents are in mainstream schools. In Torbay, Reading and Central Bedfordshire it is 100 per cent. In Camden and Ealing it is over 90 per cent. In Hounslow, Kent, Bradford and Rochdale it is over 80 per cent.

While it was not the focus of the research exercise, there are a couple of encouraging points from the responses to mention. It looks as though the total number in children’s homes is declining slightly. According to official returns last March it was nine per cent – down from ten per cent in 2010.  From the returns I have been sent (which were from 114 of the relevant 152 “upper tier” local authorities in England) it looks as though the tally has since fallen to around eight per cent of Looked After Children being in institutional care. The figures are a “snapshot” and a significant minority of authorities have not replied. (In the case of Rutland they refused to answer.)

Also a few councils volunteered their latest total for all their children in care or “Looked After Children” – including those with fosters carers and institutional care. Four of them showed a rise. Stockton was up from 360 to 371 while Walsall was up from 575 to 608 and Warwickshire was up from 700 to 725. Norfolk was up from 1,075 to 1,138.

But most showed falls. Birmingham from 1,890 to 1,805. Derby from 465 to 458, Durham from 625 to 595, East Sussex from 600 to 576, Enfield from 300 to 297, Leeds from 1,375 to 1,352, Portsmouth from 435 to 314, Waltham Forest from 280 to 259 and West Sussex from 670 to 636. Telford and the Wrekin 304 from 320. Provided those falls have been achieved through increased adoption rates – rather than turning a blind eye to those being neglected or abused – that trend is hopeful.

So that small sample might be an indication that the number of children in care is falling slightly, and that the ratio of those that are in care condemned to the additional misery of institutional care is also declining a little. Some modest progress, at least, for the reforms that the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, has introduced.

For me that doesn’t begin to allow cause for celebration. We continue to deny permanent loving homes to 60,000 children. At a cost of nearly a billion a year, 5,000 of them are in soulless institutions. During their duration in such places they often suffer further abuse – having already suffered at the hands of their families which the state was meant to rescue them from.

That is a most terrible betrayal. The problem partly results from social work ideology – for instance the hostility to the family unit. There is also the question of accountability. If a child is moved from a children’s home to foster carers and something goes wrong, then those who made the decision will be blamed – even though problems are more likely to occur with the child remaining in the children’s home. The issue of cost can be complicated if a council maintains its own children’s homes as it then feels it may as well keep them full. There can also be the inertia of children being left in children’s homes while the focus of attention is on coping with new cases coming in.

These may be explanations. They are not justifications.

This is an issue that Children’s Services Departments in councils around the country should be challenged on. We can’t leave it all to Mr Gove. Councillors, who are supposed to be the “corporate parents” of these children, need to start asking some questions about it.

Barking and Dagenham 20 (4.4 per cent) in children’s homes.  1 (5 per cent) in mainstream education.

Barnet 45 (13.6 per cent) in children’s homes. 29% (13 children) in mainstream education.

Bath and North East Somerset 6 (6 per cent) of school age LAC children in children’s homes. Nil in mainstream education.

Bedford  27 (10.5 per cent)  in children’s homes. 21 (77.7 per cent) in mainstream education.

Bexley 21 (8.1 per cent) in children’s homes. “Fewer than 5” in mainstream education.

Birmingham 157 (8.7 per cent) Of the 110 in Reception to Yr11, 26 (23.6 per cent) are in mainstream education as defined by the DfE.

Blackburn with Darwen. 16 (4.5 per cent) in children’s homes. 3 in mainstream education.

Bolton. 37 (7 per cent) in childrens homes. Of the 24 of school age. 23 (96 per cent) in mainstream education.

Bournemouth. 21 (7.34 per cent) in children’s homes. 11 in mainstream education.

Bradford 105 (11 per cent) in children’s homes. 88 (84 per cent) in mainstream education.

Brent  25 (7.6 per cent) in children’s homes. 3 (12 per cent) in mainstream education.

Brighton and Hove 35 (7.7 per cent) in children’s homes. 4 (13.8 per cent) in mainstream education.

Bromley 17 (5.8 per cent) in children’s homes. None in mainstream education.

Buckinghamshire 56 statutory school age children live in Children’s Homes (21.2% of Looked After Children). 15 (5.4 per cent) in mainstream education.

Bury. 13 (7 per cent) in children’s homes. 3 (23 per cent) in mainstream education.

Cambridgeshire 14  children’s homes. None in mainstream education.

Camden 13 (5.5 per cent)  in children’s home. 12 (92 per cent) in mainstream education.

Central Bedfordshire – 28 (10.25 per cent) 100 per cent in mainstream education.

Cheshire East 28 (8 per cent) in children’s homes. 14 (50 per cent) in mainstream education.

Chester West and Cheshire 24 (5.37 per cent) in children’s homes. 7 (29.1 per cent) in mainstream education.

Cornwall.  23 (5 per cent) in children’s homes. 9 (39 per cent) in mainstream education.

Croydon 27 (3.4 per cent) in children’s homes. 8 (30 per cent) in mainstream education.

Cumbria 40 (6.2 per cent) in children’s homes. 8 (20 per cent) in mainstream education.

Derby City Council 41 (9 per cent) in children’s homes. 32 (78 per cent) in mainstream education.

Derbyshire  23 in children’s homes. 6 mainstream education

Devon 46 in children’s homes. 5 (11%) in mainstream education.

Doncaster 58 (10.72 per cent) in children’s homes. 24 (41.4 per cent) in mainstream education.

Dorset 25 in children’s homes. 6 (24 per cent) in mainstream education.

Dudley 76 (9.9 per cent) in children’s homes. Mainstream education? 18 (23.7 per cent)

Durham 31 (5.2 per cent) in children’s homes. 7 (22.6 per cent) in mainstream education.

Ealing 40 (10%) in children’s homes. 37 (92 per cent) in mainstream education.

East Sussex  36 (6.3 per cent) in children’s homes.  Of the school aged element 79.3 per cent (23/29) are in mainstream education.

Enfield 22 (7.4 per cent) in children’s homes. 4 (18.2 per cent) in mainstream education.

Essex 73 of school age (10 per cent) 15 (21 per cent) in mainstream education.

Gloucestershire 26 (5 per cent). None in mainstream education.

Hackney 13 (3.6 per cent) in children’s homes. 1 (7.7 per cent) in mainstream education.

Hammersmith and Fulham 9 (4.4 per cent) in children’s homes. 3 (33.3 per cent) in mainstream education.

Hampshire 98 (7.8 per cent) in children’s homes. 35 (50.7 per cent) out of 69 children in mainstream education.

Haringey 19 (3.6 per cent) in children’s homes. 4 (21 per cent) in mainstream education.

Havering  16 (8.3 per cent) 2 (12.5 per cent) in mainstream education.

Herefordshire 29 in children’s homes. 23 in mainstream education.

Hertfordshire  76 (7.5 per cent). 47 (61.8 per cent in mainstream education).

Hillington – 31 (9.6 per cent) 8 (25 per cent) in mainstream education.

Hounslow 28 (8.4 per cent) in children’s homes. 25 (89.3 per cent in mainstream education.

Hull 52 (8 per cent) in children’s homes. 10 (23.25 per cent) in mainstream education.

Isle of Wight 18 (8.9 per cent) in children’s homes 9 (50 per cent) in mainstream education.

Islington 21 (7 per cent) in children’s homes. 7 (33 per cent) in mainstream education.

Kent 53 (2.9 per cent) in children’s homes. 45 (84.9 per cent) in mainstream education.

Knowsley 25 (10.1 per cent) in children’s homes. 19 (76 per cent) in mainstream education.

Lambeth 37 (7.05 per cent) in children’s homes.  26 (70 per cent) in mainstream education.

Lancashire – 47 (3 per cent) in children’s homes. 8 (14.5 per cent) in mainstream education.

Leeds 40 (2.95 per cent) children’s homes. 38 (95 per cent) in mainstream education.

Leicester 35 (12 per cent). 15 (43 per cent) in mainstream education.

Leicestershire 42 (8.6 per cent). 18 (42.9 per cent) in mainstream education.

Lewisham 36 (7.17 per cent) in children’s homes. 7 (19.4 per cent) in mainstream education.

Lincolnshire 28 (4.72 per cent) in children’s homes. 9 (32.14 per cent) in mainstream education.

Luton  10 (2.6 per cent) in children in homes. 1 (10 per cent) in mainstream education.

Manchester  148 (11 per cent) in children’s homes. 96 (65 per cent) in mainstream education.

Medway 34 (9 per cent) children’s homes. 9 (26 per cent) in mainstream education.

Merton 10 (6 per cent) in children’s homes.  4 (40 per cent) in mainstream education.

Middlesbrough 51 (14 per cent in children’s homes). 9 (18 per cent) in mainstream education.

Milton Keynes. 31 children (10.6 per cent) in children’s homes. 4 (12.9 per cent) in mainstream education.

Newcastle  53 (9.7 per cent) in children’s homes. 15 (28.3 per cent) in mainstream education.

Newham 33 (10 per cent) of those Looked After Children aged 5-18 in children’s homes. 16 (48 per cent) in mainstream education.

Norfolk 118 (11 per cent) in children’s homes. 28 (23.7 per cent) in mainstream education.

Northamptonshire 55 (6.7 per cent) in children’s homes. 18 (33 per cent) in mainstream education.

North Yorkshire 13 (2.7 per cent) in children’s homes. “Fewer than 5” in mainstream education.

Northumberland 16 (5 per cent) in children’s homes. 2 (18.18 per cent) in mainstream education.

Nottinghamshire 80 (9 per cent) in children’s homes. 28 (31 per cent) in mainstream education.

Oldham  30 (7.5 per cent) in children’s homes. 7 (23.75) per cent in mainstream education.

Oxfordshire 69 (15 per cent) in children’s homes. 51 of them of statutory school age. 15 (29.4 per cent in mainstream education.

Peterborough 25 (7 per cent)  in Children’s Homes. 2 (8 per cent) in mainstream education.

Plymouth 27 (7 per cent) in children’s homes. 2 (7 per cent) in mainstream education

Portsmouth 27 (9 per cent) in children’s homes. 11 (41 per cent) in mainstream education.

Reading. 6 (12 per cent) in children’s homes. 100% in mainstream education.

Redcar and Cleveland – 8 (7.2%) in children’s homes. None in mainstream education.

Redbridge – 21 (9.41 per cent) in children’s homes. 4 are in mainstream education

Richmond 14 (16 per cent) in children’s home Fewer than 5 in mainstream education.

Rochdale 41 (8 per cent) in children’s homes. 36 (88 per cent) in mainstream education.

Rotherham 32 (8.4 per cent) in children’s homes. 22 (68.8 per cent) in mainstream education.

Sandwell – 28 (4.5%) in children’s homes. 6 (21 per cent) in mainstream education.

Slough 22 (9.7 per cent) in children’s homes. 11 (4.3 per cent) in mainstream education.

Solihull 20 (6.3 per cent) of which 12 are of compulsory school age. 2 (16.7 per cent) in mainstream education.

Somerset –  53 (10.3 per cent) in children’s homes. 10 (40 per cent) in mainstream education.

Southampton 10 (2 per cent) in children’s homes.) Nil in mainstream education.

Shropshire 49 (22 per cent) in children’s homes. 11 (22 per cent) in mainstream education.

Staffordshire 90 (9.5 per cent) 16.35 per cent (as a proportion of those who are school up to year 11) in mainstream education.

Stockport 41 in children’s homes. 17 (41.5 per cent) in mainstream education.

St Helens 25 (9 per cent) in children’s homes. 8 (32 per cent) in mainstream education.

Stockton 42 (11.3 per cent) in children’s homes. 25 in mainstream education.

Stoke 32 (6.23 per cent) in children’s homes. 11 (34.4 per cent) in mainstream education.

Sunderland 50 (10.1 per cent) in children’s homes. 7 (14 per cent) in mainstream education.

Suffolk. 31 (6 per cent) in children’s homes. 11 (24 per cent) in mainstream education.

Sutton – 24 (12 per cent) in children’s homes. None in mainstream education as all below school age.

Surrey – 50 (9.6 per cent) in children’s homes of the age range for years 1-11. 26 (52 per cent) in mainstream education.

Swindon – 14 (5.7 per cent) in children’s homes. None in mainstream education

Telford and the Wrekin 41 (13.4 per cent) in children’s homes. 15(37 per cent) in mainstream education.

Thurrock 40 (13 per cent) in children’s homes. “Fewer than 5” in mainstream education.

Torbay 34 (11.9 per cent). 34 (100 per cent) in mainstream education.

Tower Hamlets 22 (6.85 per cent) 14 (63.6 per cent) in mainstream education

Wakefield 43 (8 per cent) in children’s homes. 6 (20 per cent) in mainstream education.

Walsall 31 (5.1 per cent) in children’s homes. 17 (58.6 per cent) in mainstream education.

Waltham Forest 22 (8.5 per cent). Nil in mainstream education.

Wandsworth 23  (10.60 per cent) in Children’s Homes. 7 (30 per cent) in mainstream education.

Warrington 29 (12 per cent) in children’s homes. 10 (35 per cent) in mainsteam education.

Warwickshire 26 children (3.6 per cent)  1 (3.8%)  in mainstream education.

West Sussex  69 (10.85 per cent) 7 (14.58%) in mainstream education.

Westminster  9 (5.3 per cent) in children’s homes

Wiltshire 29 (6.8 per cent) in children’s homes. 9  (31 per cent) in mainstream education.

Windsor and Maidenhead 14 (13%) in children’s homes. 5 (36 per cent) in mainstream education.

Wirral 26 of the 42 children/young people in children’s homes are of formal school age.  Of those 26 children 22 attend a mainstream school or are subject to a SEN and attend a special school (84.5%)

Wolverhampton 57 (7.58 per cent) in children’s homes. 36 (63 per cent) in mainstream education.

Worcestershire 54 (8.26%) in children’s home. 30 (64 per cent) in mainstream education.

York 21 (10 per cent in children’s homes). 16 (76 per cent) in mainstream schools.

Total 4,176 in children’s homes. 1,613 in mainstream education. 39 per cent

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