Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire foster children 'sent up to 250 miles away'

Some children in Hampshire are being fostered up to 250 miles (400km) from their homes, a children's trust said.

In Portsmouth half the children in care are placed outside the city and have been sent as far away as Middlesbrough, the Who Cares Trust said.

The council said because the small size of the city, it was difficult to place all children within its boundaries.

A spokesman added that only 26 out of 300 children in care - or 8% - were placed more than 20 miles away.

Councillor Rob Wood, cabinet member for children and education at Portsmouth City Council, added: "These placements are made to ensure the best possible care for the children involved, including placements with relatives and family friends, and placements that provide specialist care."

'Moral responsibility'

Many councils are struggling to find placements for youngsters because of a shortage of local foster carers.

Jack Smith, from the trust, said children placed in care far from home were often more vulnerable than those that could be kept nearby.

He said: "Some children are placed away for safety reasons but there's a good chunk of children who the local authorities just don't have the local foster carers or the children's homes to find places for them.

"It's really tough for those children, you have to remember that the vast majority of these children did absolutely nothing wrong, they're going through a really traumatic experience.

"They're being placed away from everything that's familiar to them - their friends, grandparents and from their schools and youth clubs.

"The state's taken these children into care, it's the state's moral responsibility to look after them."

'Extremely rare'

Mr Wood said: "We know it seems strange to have children placed as far away from Portsmouth as Middlesbrough but this is extremely rare.

"In fact, of the 300 children in care in the city, only 26 are placed more than 20 miles from Portsmouth.

"Where we do place children further afield, in most cases those placements are made to provide the best possible care for the children concerned, whether that's with relatives or friends or because they need specialist care that is not available in the city."

Mr Smith said despite the council campaigns, fewer people were taking on the fostering role.

"It doesn't really touch the sides, it's not a job they do for money - the allowance isn't rising with inflation," Mr Smith said.

In Hampshire a foster carer would be given on average about £9,500 a year to cover the cost of looking after a 10 to 15-year-old child.

Children's services spokesman at Hampshire County Council, Councillor Roy Perry, said meeting a shortfall in carers sometimes meant it was necessary to place children further away.

He said: "If we have in-house carers - people we know who we've trained - then obviously that's our first choice.

"But sometimes, for specialist reasons of the child and of the needs, we have to go to the specialist carers and they do cost a lot of money - some of these costs are very large."

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