Stop sending children miles away

by Good Law Project

Stop sending children miles away

by Good Law Project
Good Law Project
Case Owner
Good Law Project's mission is to achieve change through the law. We uphold democracy, protect the environment and ensure no one is left behind.
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Good Law Project's mission is to achieve change through the law. We uphold democracy, protect the environment and ensure no one is left behind.
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Latest: Dec. 6, 2021

We still want to protect children in care - we're asking the Court to reconsider

Back in July, we launched this legal challenge against five county councils and the former Education Secretary to put a stop to the increasingly common practice of housing vulnerable children far awa…

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Time and again local authorities are placing children in care in the cheapest accommodation, rather than the accommodation that best meets their needs. For more than 30,000 children last year, this meant being torn away from their schools, loved ones and support networks - placed miles outside of their local area, often with no warning. 

The impact is devastating:

As a result of my move, I have felt unwanted in various aspects of my life” - Claudia

“I was worried about my A Level exams, as getting into university was important to me. But I was placed very far away from my college.” - Sedil

And there is a darker side. Children in distant placements are more vulnerable to criminal exploitation, trafficking and “county lines” than those who remain in their home area. Ofsted’s recent report concluded that distant placements contribute to the sexual exploitation of children because it makes it more difficult for agencies to work together to keep them safe.

Councils have a legal duty to ensure that children in care are accommodated within their local area if that is in their best interests, which, for the vast majority of children, it will be. They also have a duty to ensure there is enough provision in their area to allow that to happen. Out of area placements are intended to be a last resort. Yet, thousands of children are being sent miles away from everything and everyone they know.

So why is this happening? Three quarters of children’s homes are now run by the private sector and these are disproportionately located in the North of England. Not because demand is higher there - but because property is cheaper.

Last year the six largest private care providers made £219 million in profit, whilst local authorities struggled to balance their books and outcomes for children in care remain dire.

Good Law Project has launched groundbreaking legal action to prevent children being put at risk by being separated from their support networks. We’re challenging five local authorities - Essex, Cambridgeshire, West Sussex, Surrey and Derby City - for not complying with their duty.

We are also challenging the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, for failing to exercise his power to step in. We believe the Secretary of State’s failure to act, whilst children in care suffer, to be unlawful.

The state can and must do better for these children. Please consider donating to this challenge.

 
The details: 
Good Law Project has instructed Stephen Broach of 39 Essex Chambers, and Michael Armitage and Khatija Hafesji of Monckton Chambers, to act as Counsel - and Bindmans LLP as solicitors. You can read the pre-action protocol letter here and Statement of Facts and Grounds here.

10% of the sums raised will go to Good Law Project to help it develop and support further litigation in the public interest. It is our policy only to raise sums that we reasonably anticipate could be spent on this litigation. However, if there is a surplus it will go to support and enable other litigation we bring.



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Update 1

Good Law Project

Dec. 6, 2021

We still want to protect children in care - we're asking the Court to reconsider

Back in July, we launched this legal challenge against five county councils and the former Education Secretary to put a stop to the increasingly common practice of housing vulnerable children far away from everything they know in for-profit care homes. 

Accommodating children out of area takes them away from their communities, friends and support networks; upending their lives, worsening the traumas they’ve already experienced and placing them in greater danger of abuse and exploitation.

But a High Court judge chose to interpret the current law surrounding this issue in a way that we consider is far too narrow, and refused permission for our judicial review.

So, we are now calling for their decision to be reconsidered.  

We think the councils are in breach of their legal duties to ensure that, as far as is reasonably practicable, children in care are given accommodation within their local area, and to ensure there’s enough accommodation in their area for that to happen.

After we launched proceedings, many of the councils accepted that there were issues and started trying to address them. Surrey, for example, recently began the ‘Coming Home’ project to “increase the sufficiency of provision in Surrey for children and young people who are looked after and/or have SEND [special educational needs and disabilities]".

We are pleased to see that attitudes are starting to change, but county councils and the Government can and must do more to protect vulnerable children in their care. We think it’s right for the High Court to rule on it.

Tearing children away from their support networks must be the exception, never the rule. We’re going to carry on fighting for these children with everything we’ve got. 

If you are able to help us continue this important work, please consider supporting this appeal. 

You can read the High Court’s ruling here and our renewal application here

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