The practice of moving children in care to towns where low housing costs make it cheaper to run children's homes may make financial sense. But it has little else to recommend it. Indeed, the leader of Rochdale Council is so concerned about the huge number of privately run homes in his area – 41, compared with just nine in similarly sized Haringey, say – that he believes that children's safety is no longer guaranteed.
Given that nine Rochdale men were recently convicted of the serial abuse of young girls, one of whom lived in a care home, such a warning has considerable force. Neither do the implications stop there, since there are as many as 21,000 children across the country being looked after outside their home area.
Children in care are already the most vulnerable in our society. Shipping them away from home only leaves them even more exposed. The lessons from Rochdale cannot be ignored.
Granted, we can't put them all in the most expensive areas, but we shouldn't be housing them based upon cost in the first place.
Surely the housing of vulnerable children should be determined by safety?