Hundreds of children who have been taken into ‘care’ in Hertfordshire are scattered across the UK, it has emerged.
Latest snapshot data shows that 371 of Hertfordshire’s ‘looked after’ children – that’s almost 40 per cent – are placed outside of the county boundary.
And they are scattered in foster placements, children’s homes and other facilities in 34 different local authorities.
The majority of those children – as of May 31 – are in the neighbouring counties of Bedfordshire (77), Buckinghamshire (19), Cambridgeshire (17), Essex (51) or London (88).
But 119 youngsters – some under five years old – have been sent further afield.
The data is a snapshot of where Hertfordshire’s looked after children were placed on May 31 this year (2021).
According to data – requested by the Local Democracy Reporting Service – three children are 429 miles away in Scotland.
There are also children as far away as Northumberland, Cumbria, Wales, Lincolnshire, Kent and the Isle of Wight.
Council bosses stress that they try to place children as close as possible to the families – and that sometimes an ‘out-of-county’ placement can be closer than one on the other side of Hertfordshire.
They say that some children are placed out of county to be close to family or to take up a place in a residential special schools, specialist psychiatric care or criminal secure provision.
But they acknowledge that 18 per cent – that’s almost one-in-five – of the county’s looked after children are placed outside of the county because of a lack of provision.
A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “Wherever possible we try to make sure that the children we look after are placed close to their family and friends, and most are placed within Hertfordshire, or close to our borders in neighbouring counties, which may sometimes be closer to home than a placement on the other side of Hertfordshire.
“There are several reasons why children may be placed a more significant distance away from Hertfordshire, including being placed with friends or family who live in another part of the country, residential special schools, specialist psychiatric care or criminal secure provision.
“We also deliberately place some children at a distance from their old lives for their own safety.
“However around 18 per cent of the children we look after are placed outside the county because of a lack of places within Hertfordshire.
“This normally means being placed with foster carers in another county.
“To address this we are investing in a new Fostering Strategy to recruit and train more foster carers within Hertfordshire, and in creating an extra 31 residential placements within the county.”
Data reported to the latest meeting of the county council’s children, young people and families cabinet panel, showed that last year Hertfordshire’s looked after children were placed in 74 different council areas.
It shows that in the previous year children were placed in 70 different council areas – and that in the past 12 months that has increased to 74.