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Vulnerable children sent too far from home at risk of "sex-grooming" says KCC
VULNERABLE children in care are being sent too far away from their homes leaving them susceptible to "sex-grooming", says Kent County Council.
According to a recent KCC survey, the county currently cares for 134 Greenwich children - more than any other local authority in the country.
In total 1,267 non-Kent youngsters are placed in the county including 60 from Lewisham, 48 from Bexley as well as two from Scotland.
KCC leader Councillor Paul Carter argues children in care should be kept within 15 miles of home in order to minimise trauma and avoid the risk of child sex-grooming.
He said: "Children in care deserve a better deal and all councils must work much harder to provide placements that enable them to remain in their schools and with their friends, unless there is a threat to their safety.
"Following the recent conviction of nine members of a sex-grooming network in Rochdale, all councils must make sure they can properly safeguard teenagers placed in residential children’s homes, particularly those placed many miles from home, which increases their sense of vulnerability."
He is calling on the government to put forward legislation for children to be placed less than 15 miles from their home or school and has written to the Mayor of London Boris Johnson for a meeting of London councils on the issue.
A Greenwich Council spokesman said: "The Royal Borough of Greenwich is committed to placing looked after children as close to home as possible.
"In the majority of cases they are placed less than 20 miles from their home.
"Any referrals of children in care have been done with the interests and needs of the child at the heart of the decision."
Speaking on behalf of Lewisham and other London boroughs, regional chair of the association of directors of children’s services Yvette Stanley repeated the commitment for children in care to be kept close to home.
She said: "Boroughs have been trying to reduce the number of children in care across London as a whole and are working closely with Kent County Council to review the number of children placed in Kent."
Definition of children in care
Children in care or 'looked after children' are children in public care, who are placed with foster carers, in residential homes or with parents or other relatives.