Concerns over the care of vulnerable children

Thirty jobs at Norfolk County Council's children's services department are at risk.

Thirty jobs at Norfolk County Council's children's services department are at risk. - Credit: Archant

Some of Norfolk's most vulnerable children are being cared for hundreds of miles away from their home county, with council bosses admitting the care they have been receiving is, in some cases, not good enough.

And Norfolk County Council children's services care bosses are looking to bring young people back home, with some cared for as far afield as Cumbria, Lancashire and Devon.

There are 169 young people being cared for out of county placements. The majority are in neighbouring counties of Suffolk, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire, but 31 are in what are deemed 'distant' counties.

In some cases those children are some distance away because their foster carers have moved out of Norfolk, but in others they are being looked after in specialist care units.

The council says many short-term emergency out-of-county placements have turned into medium or long-term, which can lead to them becoming isolated and cut-off from family and friends. That makes it less likely they will be reunited with their family in the future.

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And the council has concerns over some of the units young people have been placed in out of county.

A recent report drawn up by officers said: 'Some children and young people with particularly challenging behaviour have been placed in provision which purports to be 'specialist'. but which in reality, offers little in the way of targeted intervention, with significant variation in quality.'

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Don Evans, looked after children's commissioner for Norfolk County Council, said: 'In the last year we have reduced the number of children placed out of county from 198 to 169, a 15pc reduction. This has been achieved through a combination of providing more support to keep families together, reducing the overall number of looked after children and working closely with partners to increase the range of available care options in Norfolk.

'We are committed to reducing the number of children placed out of county and are actively reviewing their needs and care arrangements. However, any placement move requires careful planning and preparation and we would only return children and young people from their existing placements where it was in their best interests to do so.'

Jonathan Dunning, branch secretary for the county council UNISON branch, said: 'We accept that children's services are trying to bring them back home, but I have to question how good for these children that they have been taken to the other side of the county.'

Where are the looked after children?

31 in distant counties: Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside, Kent, Cheshire, Derbyshire, Dorset, Devon, Gloucestershire, Essex, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Hertfordshire, North Humberside, London and Nottinghamshire.

83 in Suffolk

36 in Lincolnshire

19 in Cambridgeshire

Total out of county: 169

Total in county: 940

Overall total: 1109

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