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Lochaber MSP Kate Forbes has described it as nothing short of ‘scandalous’ that Highland children are being placed in foster care far from their home areas, with one youngster almost 500 miles away from home.
Ms Forbes is campaigning for Highland Council to radically rethink its foster care arrangements after new information revealed that the local authority has even placed a child with a foster carer outside of Scotland and almost 500 miles distance from home.
New information obtained by the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch under a Freedom of Information request showed that one child is placed 484 miles from its home community; seven children are placed over 250 miles away from home and another 11 children are placed over 200 miles from their home.
It follows recent pressure from the Highland MSP, who has been urging the council to pay a better allowance rate for foster carers in the Highlands – which could increase numbers in the region and reduce the local authority’s spend on out-of-area referrals.
Ms Forbes told us: ‘It is scandalous that Highland children are being sent to other parts of the UK as part of foster care arrangements. It is difficult enough for any child going through the fostering and adoption process, never mind being placed 500 miles away from home.
‘Whilst I fully understand there will be times when it is a risk for a child to remain near their own home, Highland Council should not be sending children to another country.
‘This has all sorts of repercussions, such as different school systems that will likely disrupt their education, not to mention the costs and staff time for mandatory social work visits.
‘It is evident that Highland Council needs to review its own foster care arrangements, and that should include recruitment drives, fairer allowance rates and rebalancing costs of sending children out of area.
‘If anybody is concerned by these figures, then perhaps now is the time to consider whether they could become a foster carer in the Highlands.’
Highland Council is reported to be maintaining its claim that it has not sent any children outside Scotland.
However, relocating a child a distance of 484 miles from anywhere on the mainland would geographically place them in another UK nation or in one of eight other European countries.