135 looked after children placed outside county

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More than 130 looked after children in Suffolk are being placed outside the county as the demand for placements increases.

Following a Freedom of Information request, the Bury Free Press can reveal that upto the end of February 135 out of the county’s 735 looked after children were homed outside the local authority boundary.

This compares with 155 out of 780 last year, 145 out of 785 in 2010/11 and 150 out of 775 in 2009/10. Children are currently placed in counties such as Kent, Lincolnshire, Shropshire, London, Rutland, Bath, Hampshire, Bradford Metropolitan District, Southend on Sea and West Berkshire.

Suffolk County Council has 31 places in five children’s homes and has to find the rest in other residential settings.

Graham Newman, the authority’s cabinet member for young people, said children are placed elsewhere because there ‘might not be places’ in Suffolk, which is in competition with other adjacent authorities. He said: “Our preference is to keep the children within the reach of their wider families. The cost of maintaining those places at that sort of distance is very high.”

On ensuring more are kept within the county, he pointed to the Government funded Zipwire project, which is being piloted in Lowestoft to provide innovative foster care for teenagers with complex behaviours.