Charity Become says ‘shocking’ numbers highlight need for stability and more funding for foster carers
The “shocking and upsetting” numbers, collated by the national care charity Become, showed that an average of 79 looked-after children had to change foster carer or children’s home each day over the 2021-22 festive period.
Some had to move more than once, prompting particular upset at a time of year when children in care can feel especially lonely and unloved.
One young person told Become that Christmas “often reminds me that I don’t have a ‘normal’ family … I am reminded of how different my experience of the world is from them.”
Freedom of information requests revealed 1,257 children in care moved homes between 18 December 2021 and 3 January 2022.
The data covers 144 of 151 local authorities in England. While some councils said they had not moved any children over the Christmas period, Kent moved 54 (3% of the county’s looked-after children), Brent in London moved 23 (6.7%) and Oldham in Greater Manchester moved 25 (4.6%).
Moving over Christmas can present practical challenges. While local authorities have staff supporting children in care over the festive period, regular services are less likely to be available. With schools closed, children do not have the same distractions and contact with their existing network of friends may be more limited, Become said in its Home For Christmas report.
Some local authorities reported a higher number of moves than children, meaning some children had been moved more than once during the festive period.
The instability faced at Christmas reflects the picture across the year. In 2021-22, 10% of children in the care system were moved three or more times (8,030 children in total), with almost one-third of children in care (31%) moved two or more times.
While there can be valid reasons for children being moved, moves can often be due to a lack of appropriate places, poor planning or unsuitable matching or places, Become said.