Responding to an announcement from some head teachers in Kent that they will no longer accept looked after children from London unless ministers take personal responsibility for their safety, The Fostering Network’s chief executive, Kevin Williams, said: ‘Moving fostered young people from their local area is a decision that should not be taken lightly and in the majority of cases it will be more beneficial for the young person to have the stability of staying near family, friends and their wider support network. This is one of the reasons we are calling on the Government to prioritise the funding of foster care and the recruitment and retention of foster carers around the UK. The more foster carers available in a locality, the higher the chance a young person will be able to live with a foster family that can meet all their needs and remain close to their home.
‘In the instances where moving a young person is in their best interest, it is the responsibility of the placing local authority to ensure that all their needs are able to be met and that they are able to be kept safe, but it is also essential that Government support is provided to enable this to happen. This includes adequately funding and resourcing the receiving local authority, not only with regards to the fostering services but also the support services such as those for mental health, physical health, schools and police. This is especially necessary in cases where one local authority, such as Kent, is seeing a large influx of looked after children.
‘We are concerned that by making the decision to stop accepting looked after young people from London into schools the head teachers are in danger of exacerbating the stereotype of all children in care as having the same challenges, behaviours and needs. There will, of course, be some children and young people who have more demanding care requirements than others, and in those instances it is down to the local authority to seek an appropriate arrangement with local support services and a fostering family who can meet the needs of the young person and provide a safe environment for them to thrive.
‘We believe that despite the financial and political pressures, it is wrong to deny looked after children their right to an education. Instead we would urge the Government to bring together London and Kent authorities to collaborate to ensure the best possible outcome is found for all the looked after young people impacted by this situation.’