Report: The children that no-one knows what to do with – The Children’s Commissioner

Crisis in care – how children are being betrayed by the state.

Ideally, no child should grow up in an institution. Yet there are 6,570 children currently growing up in children’s homes in England. These children are here for a number of reasons – normally because their needs are so complex that it is not considered possible to meet them within a family home environment. Occasionally older children request to be in a children’s home because they do not feel like they want a “new family”, as they see foster care. Often, children are put in children’s homes because of a lack of suitable alternatives. In 2017/18, £1.25bn was spent on providing these homes–an average cost of just under £200,000 per child per year.

Generally, children’s homes care for the most vulnerable children in England; with complex mental and physical health issues, or who have been subject to appalling sexual and physical abuse, or are at risk of serious harm from criminal gangs. The standard of care these children receive should concern us all. However, as this paper demonstrates, the standard of care is variable; there aren’t enough places; children are being left at huge risk waiting for suitable accommodation; and the problem is getting worse.

Thousands of children with complex needs fall through these gaps in the system each year. They experience huge levels of instability which undermines all their relationships and compounds existing problems, or are placed far from home which damages family relationships and experience the “home” in which they are placed as hostile. These homes can, and do, throw them out at short notice, and such is the shortage of other homes that many children are left in limbo, in flats surrounded by agency staff, waiting for somewhere, anywhere in the country, willing to take them. No child should be treated like this; that it is our most vulnerable children, and those looked after by the state, to whom this is happening is simply unacceptable.

Download the report here.