Children in care moved home over Christmas period at rate of almost 80 a day

Children in care were forced to move home over the Christmas period last year at a rate of almost 80 youngsters a day, new research suggests.

Become, a charity for care-leavers, says the figures show the “shocking and upsetting” scale of instability faced by looked-after children at a time when many people are celebrating with their families.

Freedom of Information requests submitted by the charity to all 151 local authorities in England showed that 1,257 children moved care placements overall between December 18 2021 and January 3 2022.

On average, 79 youngsters were forced to relocate each day over the period.

Become chief executive Katharine Sacks-Jones said the numbers showed the care system is “not fit for purpose” and urgent action is needed to create more homes for children.

The charity does not have comparative data from the same period in previous years, but Ms Sacks-Jones said she believes the issue is “getting worse” and happening “all year round”, based on her conversations with young people in care.

“We were particularly shocked to see there were such high numbers of children being moved over the Christmas period,” she said.

“It can be a particularly difficult time so we were surprised and found it quite upsetting. The care system is not fit for purpose and there are not enough of the right types of homes for children to live in.

“We know there can be particular additional pressures over Christmas, with relationships sometimes breaking down for children in foster care, but really we think this issue is happening all year round.

“And that’s a particular problem at Christmas because children tell us how difficult Christmas is for them, as it really brings home for them that they’re in a very different situation to a lot of their peers, and that is very isolating.”

She added: “Many of these are children that have already been through a huge amount of trauma. Many of them are moving to a completely new place where they don’t know anyone.”

Some three in 10 children in care are moved more than once a year, according to Become.

Many of them are relocated to areas of the country with which they are unfamiliar, making it even more difficult for them to adjust, Ms Sacks-Jones said.

The charity is calling on ministers to address the crisis by recruiting more foster carers, improving the matching system so that children are given suitable placements, and boosting funding to increase the number of children’s homes that are run by local authorities or the voluntary sector.

The Government has been contacted for comment.