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Kent County Council still concerned over out-of-county children at risk being placed in Thanet and other seaside towns

Social services chiefs have renewed their call on the government to do more to limit the number of vulnerable children being places in Kent by other councils.

Kent County Council says there has been no reduction in the numbers despite councils being told they should not place any child at risk more than 20 miles from home.

Ministers have also recently rejected a call by a committee of MPs to commission a report into the impact of restricting out-of-county placements to 20 miles from home.

Cllr Jenny Whittle, KCC cabinet member for specialist children’s services
Cllr Jenny Whittle, KCC cabinet member for specialist children’s services

KCC, which has raised the issue several times over recent years, says the numbers have not fallen since the government encouraged councils to limit placements elsewhere.

Figures show the numbers have plateaued, with 1200 such placements in Kent at the end of March 2014, compared to 1200 in 2013 and 1249 in 2012.

Data seen by the KM Group show the London borough of Greenwich placed 165 children at risk in Kent, the highest number of any council, with 63 from Lewisham and 127 from Medway.

But some placements have been made by authorities hundreds of miles away. They include Abderdeen, Coventry, Blackburn, Northampton and Norfolk.

Efforts by KCC to encourage London boroughs not to place children at risk in the county has not borne fruit.

Cllr Peter Oakford (Con), KCC cabinet member for specialist children’s services, said:
“The risks around these children are clear – they are far from their social workers and harder to keep safe, they are more likely to go missing, they may be more vulnerable to sexual exploitation gangs and are often placed in deprived areas where there are already pressures on local services. We would call on government to reconsider their approach to this crucial issue.”

He added that there was no compulsion on local authorities to limit placements despite the risks.

Cllr Jenny Whittle, the council’s former cabinet member for children's services,told a cross-party committee:

“Children placed miles away from home are at greater risk of being sexually exploited. How can a social worker from Tower Hamlets keep a proper watch on a child placed in Margate?”

Higher numbers of children from other local authorities are placed in private residential homes in Kent seaside towns where property is cheaper, with particular pressures on Thanet.

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