1 Jul 2016

Hundreds of children in care who are moved outside their local communities are set to benefit from improved support from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority following a campaign by The Children’s Society.

After launching its Handle with Care campaign last year, The Children’s Society made recommendations to councils aimed at ensuring these young people received the best possible support – and following constructive talks a package of measures has been agreed.

Of around 5,200 young people in care in Greater Manchester as of March 31, 2015, 2,060 – nearly four in ten - were in a placement outside the boundaries of their local council. These include placements with foster carers, in children’s homes, with family or friends, or for adoption. Around one-fifth of those placed outside their local council area had been moved to placements more than 20 miles away.

The Children’s Society’s research into this issue, including focus groups with young people who had been placed outside their local council area, highlighted that moves could be difficult.

Young people explained how they had been asked to move at very short notice, or felt isolated from family and friends, while others found it difficult to settle in their new community or school and said they did not have as much contact with support staff following their move.

The campaign urged that young people should only be moved out of their local community where absolutely necessary, or in the best interests of the young person, for example where they would otherwise be at risk of abuse or neglect, where there is a suitable placement available with a relative or friend, or where there is an appropriate opportunity for adoption.

The charity’s recommendations aimed to address some of the concerns raised and focused upon ensuring young people received as much support as possible ahead of, during, and following a move out of their local council area.

Over the summer, staff from The Children’s Society and campaigners gathered more than 2,300 signatures for a petition in support of the proposals, including during a day of action across Greater Manchester.

The package of measures agreed by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority – which is made up of 10 city region council leaders and the Interim Greater Manchester Mayor - includes an agreement to:

• Ensure young people can contact family and friends, and receive appropriate support from their social worker – with all arrangements to be reviewed
• Make sure social workers always have a discussion with the young person about the reasons for the move and give them at least one month’s notice where possible
• Avoid arranging any move out of area at a time which could disrupt a young person’s education, unless totally necessary
• Explore the possibility of creating a ‘Welcome Pack’ for young people including details about their new area, transport information, services available etc
• Make sure the young people have the luggage needed to move and discuss arrangements for transport

Rob Jackson, Greater Manchester Area Director at The Children’s Society, said:

'Through our Handle with Care campaign we wanted to ensure that young people in care receive the best possible support when it is necessary for them to move to a new area.

'That includes councils’ planning of the move and young people’s understanding of why it needs to happen, but also ensuring they have the help needed to settle and thrive.

'Moving home and school and adjusting to a new area would be difficult for any young person, but those in care can be particularly vulnerable so maintaining those vital links with family, friends and professionals is crucial.

'While there is good practice in Greater Manchester, there are also clearly many instances in which support could be better and we are delighted that our local councils have made this commitment.'

Councillor Cliff Morris, GMCA Lead for Children's Services said: 'In Greater Manchester we're committed to supporting young people in care, especially when a move out of their local area is necessary.

'Moving in to a new area can be a difficult experience at the best of times but for young people in care it can mean losing contact with friends, family, their school and social workers. We want to put and end to this, ensuring that young people are only moved when absolutely necessary and, if a move is necessary, they are fully supported and involved in the process.

'That's why we're taking on board the Children's Society's recommendations. These recommendations have come through engagement with young people who have experience of care so will undoubtedly make a real difference.

'I’m proud that by working together across Greater Manchester we’re implementing these recommendations and improving the lives of young people in care.'

Nationally, there were 69,540 children in care as at March 31 2016, and of these 27,520 – 37 per cent - were placed outside their local council area.

Media enquiries

For more information, contact Rob Devey, north area communications officer on 0161 763 2172, 07814 525918, or rob.devey@childrenssociety.org.uk

Notes to Editors

The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.