The Children’s Commissioner for England has published a report tracking the experience of children in care.
The Stability Index gathered data from local authorities in England to assess how frequently children in care were changing home, school or social worker over the course of a year.
The report found that most children in care experienced some kind of instability in one form or another throughout the course of a year with almost 2,400 children (6% of children in care attending school) changing home, school or social worker in 2016/17.
The Index revealed that some children experienced several types of instability within the same year while some also experienced repeated instability over two years.
Over 3,000 children (6% of those in care in both 2015/16 and 2016/17) experienced four or more placement moves over two years including 1,300 (3% of those in care in both 2015/16 and 2016/17) who experienced multiple placement moves in both years.
Among children in care who were enrolled at school, around 1,600 (4%) experienced a school move two years in a row.
“Every day I hear from ‘pinball kids’ who are being pinged around the care system when all they really want is to be settled and to get on with normal life,” commented Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England.
“These children need stability, yet far too many are living unstable lives, in particular children entering care in their early teens. This puts them at greater risk of falling through the gaps in the education system and opens them up to exploitation by gangs or to abuse.”
“I want all local authorities to make reducing instability a priority and to measure it. I would also like to see Ofsted assessing the stability of children in care as part of their inspections and for the Department for Education to start asking for data on this in their annual returns from Local Authorities.”
Following publication of the report, the Children’s Commissioner will be writing to every Director of Children’s Services and every Lead Member for Children’s Services to notify them of their local area’s rates of stability. She will also ask them to adopt the Stability Index as a tool for identifying areas of concern and for measuring progress and improvement.