Ann Coffey

Monthly Archives: April 2016

Children’s Homes Market is Catastrophic Failure



The children’s homes market is a ‘continuing catastrophic failure’ for some young people with increasing numbers still being forced to live miles away.

Leading a debate in the Commons on Children’s Homes this afternoon, Ann Coffey, MP for Stockport, said that a third of children in children’s homes are still being sent to live more than 20 miles away from home and that the figures have actually gone up despite efforts to reduce them.

She highlighted the picture in Greater Manchester  and said that in Rochdale 71 per cent of children living in children’s homes come from outside the borough and in Stockport the figure is 63 per cent.*

She said the children’s home’s market was ‘chaotic’ for some children and was run in the interests of providers – including private equity and venture capital companies – not in the interests of vulnerable children.

The high number of out of area placements was caused by the unequal distribution of children’s homes thorough the country with all the homes concentrated in a few areas, she added.

For example, the North West has 25 per cent of all children’s homes in England but only 15% of the children’s homes population. London has only 6 per cent of children’s homes but 17 per cent of the children’s homes population.

There are some authorities in England that have no children’s homes at all and all their children are placed outside the borough.

Ms Coffey first raised the issue in a Commons debate in 1995.

She said:  “Twenty one years later I am still expressing concern. It is staggering that despite successive governments calling for a clampdown on distant placements the latest figures reveal that the number of children being sent away is actually increasing.”

The Children’s Homes 2014 data pack shows that in 2013, 31% of children in children’s homes nationally are placed 20 miles or more from their home area, an increase of 2% from 2011. And 35% of new placements for 2014 were distant placements.

She added: “The present situation in the continuing unequal distribution of children’s homes demonstrates a continuing catastrophic failure of the care market for some children. It seems to be working for the providers but not the children.”

“Until we sort out the unequal distribution, we will never be able to solve the problem of vulnerable children being placed miles away from home and all the horrendous problems and risks that flow from that. “

Children who live out of borough tend to feel dumped, abandoned and go missing more often. The cost of missing children to police in Greater Manchester is estimated to cost up to  £30.9 million per year.

Mrs Coffey said: “It is ludicrous that we have an oversupply of children homes in some areas which don’t guarantee a place for local children whilst children from areas many miles away, which have few children’s homes, are placed in Greater Manchester.

“This is a chaotic market with sometimes long lasting consequences for the children.”

Ms Coffey said that she hoped that Sir Martin Narey’s forthcoming review of children’s homes will recognise that reducing distant placements should be at the heart of reforms to the Children’s Homes market and therefore that action is needed to tackle the unequal geographical distribution of Children’s Homes.

She also called on the 10 local Manchester boroughs to use Devo-Manc to work together and to form a consortium to address how they can best look after children in children’s homes through the conurbation.

A full transcript of Ms Coffey’s speech can be seen here –