Foster kids are being sent hundreds of miles away from London to the north of England by South London councils.

Lambeth Council has housed at least one child 300 miles away in Cumbria over the past seven years, while Southwark has sent kids to Newcastle, Greater Manchester and York. 

Lewisham Council housed kids in Leeds, Wigan, St Helens and Kirklees as recently as this year.

The three South London councils regularly send kids in their care miles outside of the capital, Freedom of Information requests by the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed.

Lambeth and Southwark have even shipped children in their care to the Isle of Wight to be looked after.

Lewisham Council sent 204 kids to be looked after outside of the capital between 2021 and 2022.

Southwark placed at least 190 children in homes outside of London during the same period.

It refused to provide exact figures for when the number was less than five so the total is possibly higher. 

Lambeth didn’t provide a year by year breakdown, but one child was sent a shocking 459 miles away from the borough between 2016 and 2022.

For comparison, the distance from London to Paris is 300 miles.

This likely means the child was sent further north than Edinburgh in Scotland.

Some of the children in council care will be living with family members or family friends who live outside the capital.

But others could be placed with foster parents or care homes outside London.

All three of the councils house most kids in their care within London, but a significant minority are sent to live outside of the capital, particularly in the home counties.

As of last year, 118 kids in Southwark Council’s care were being housed in Kent or Medway.

Over the same period, 74 kids in Lewisham Council’s care were placed in Kent, 22 in Medway and 16 in Surrey.

In February, Southwark Council revealed it was opening three new children’s homes in the borough.

The local authority won £1.85 million from the Department for Education to pay for new children’s homes.

The local authority hopes to house 15 kids currently being looked after outside the borough in the properties. 

A Lewisham Council spokesperson said: “The vast majority of children in care are placed in Lewisham or other South London boroughs, such as Greenwich or Bromley, and in 2021/22, 80% of all placements were within London.

“In some cases, children and young people may be placed outside of London.

"This is generally due to the specific needs of an individual child or young person or the availability of suitable placements.

"When making decisions around placements, our priority will always be the safety and wellbeing of the children and young people in our care.

“We are currently developing a strategy to ensure we continue supporting the placement needs of our children and young people to the best of our ability, including increasing the number of placements in the borough where appropriate.”

Cllr Jasmine Ali, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children, Young People & Education, said: “The vast majority of children in our care are in foster care in family homes in or near the borough and this meets their needs very well.

"A much smaller proportion of children in our care are supported and protected further away. We want to support them closer to, and within, their home community, where it is safe to do so, and where we are able to find the best possible home for them.

“We are committed to reducing how far children in care live from the borough, so it’s really positive that we have reduced the average placement distance of children from the borough every year over the last five years.

"We plan to build on this success by opening a children’s home in the borough and are actively considering opening more.

"Our model of children’s home is for small, homely and safe homes. We always prioritise the safety and protection of children in our care, and we believe that this exciting development will be in the best interest of some children in our care.”

Lambeth Council said: “The safety and wellbeing of every child in our care is our top priority, and we make every effort to ensure that we provide the best possible placements for them.

“We always try to place children in a home near their family members, wherever it is possible and safe to do so.

"Moving any child away from Lambeth is always a last resort.

“Wherever possible, we’d always look to place children in the first instance in Lambeth. However, there may be a number of reasons why it might be in the young person’s best interests to be placed further away from Lambeth.

“We are also dealing with a chronic national shortage of suitable placements, which means we sometimes have to place children further away. There is also a shortage of foster carers which we are doing everything in our power to address – for example, by increasing the rates of allowances and package of support available to foster parents .

“Wherever they are placed, we continue to keep in regular contact with our children and they continue to receive the best support available. They are not disadvantaged in any way.”

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