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Criminal Care? · 7 Jun 2019

Howard League responds to Parliamentary inquiry into out-of-area placements

We were pleased to submit evidence last month to the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Runaway and Missing Children and Adults for its inquiry into out-of-area care placements for looked-after children and young people.

The inquiry is concerned with the risks facing children and young people who are in care placements outside of their local authority and the safeguarding procedures that are in place to protect them (more details here). It builds on previous work done by this APPG and the APPG on Looked After Children and Care Leavers into children who go missing from care.

The report emanating from this earlier inquiry (published in 2012) made a number of recommendations including a clamp down on the high numbers of ‘out-of-area placements’ and greater oversight to reduce the number of children living outside their own local authority.

Out-of-area placements are undoubtedly a factor in missing incidents and criminalisation

We know from our extensive qualitative research with the police, children and young people, social services professionals and others that there are links between missing incidents and criminalisation. The reasons for this are complex and individual to each child: some children will be going missing because they are being criminally exploited, for example, in order to run drugs; others will be criminalised as a result of having gone missing, for example, they were exploited by a previously unknown person whilst missing or for another reason flowing from that missing incident such as stealing to survive or assaulting a police officer when they are picked up; other missing incidents may flow from well-being issues which may also be contributing to incidents leading to other police involvement.

Out-of-area placements are undoubtedly a factor in missing incidents and criminalisation. Being away from home areas can contribute to the reasons why children go missing, it can affect children’s safety whilst they are missing and the fact that children are out of their home local authority area can hamper agencies’ abilities to respond to incidents and safeguard children.

You can read the Howard League’s full response on our website.

We will shortly be publishing new data on call-outs for missing incidents from children’s homes drawn from a Freedom of information request to all police forces in England and Wales. Keep an eye out for our blog for more on this briefing.

Claire Sands


  • H J Clark says:

    I can understand that out-of-area placements have value without a doubt but in today’s climate of underfunded support services, it may well lead to an out of the frying pan and into the fire effect.
    We’ve all witnessed the innocent being lost, abused or worse when passed from pillar to post. Children’s care has been so much about ticking boxes and not actually caring.
    This costs money but the outcomes of not spending now can and do end up costing so much more in the long run.

  • Graham says:

    This has been a problem of epic proportions for at least 25 years. There is of course a conflict of interest between placing authorities unwilling to invest in local resources and the huge profits available to ‘independent’ providers. Now seeing the same pattern repeated with councils relocating families as part of a gentrification strategy. Best interests of the child? It’s all about profit.

  • Chris Evans says:

    In ,my experience this is a far from straight forward issue. Out of area placements can also remove young people from the influence of gangs and enable them to re invent themselves.
    But the only way to discern which options to use is to listen to the young people themselves and undertake sound comprehensive assessments.

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