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Ensure councils cannot relocate vulnerable children far from their home

Last updated: 12:15pm 16 May 2019

…and cannot relocate vulnerable children far from their home when it is not in their best interests to do so.

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.73

Our verdict

A 2018 report by the Children’s Commissioner’s demonstrates the scale of the challenge of caring for vulnerable children in England:

“We estimate that 2,140,000 children are in families with identified family-related vulnerabilities”

And of those children:

“1.57 million children [are] in families with complex needs for which there is no national established, recognised form of support”.

This policy promises to prevent local councils from relocating vulnerable children far from home. To fulfil this pledge we would expect legislation placing a legal requirement on councils, or at least a strategy focused on measures designed to support vulnerable children in their homes and communities.

We found no evidence of legislation under this government regarding this manifesto pledge.

In terms of policy strategy, the Children’s Commissioner’s report highlights the enormous gap between the number of vulnerable children and the number who are actually receiving support: it suggests that a narrow focus on education or “crisis services” will not solve the problem, and implies that the government is not taking steps to close the gap.

“…we should focus on expanding the provision of lower-level services which support children and families, making them routine to access.”

“Lower-level services” tend to be provided locally – for example, counselling or group programmes to address behavioural issues – so investment in those could indicate that government is delivering on this pledge. However, a June 2018 report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found:

“funding on non-statutory, preventative and early intervention services for children, as well as youth services funding, has reduced by 60% since 2010”

That conflicts with the stated aim of this policy.

In the absence of legislation or a clear government strategy to address the needs of vulnerable children, we’re marking this as ‘not started’. We’ll keep tracking, so follow this policy for updates.

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