A Freedom Of Information request has revealed that at least 5,000 children in care in England and Wales, have been separated from their siblings.

The staggering figure was revealed after 50 councils responded to the request. The actual figure, however, is likely to be much higher. There are 125 ‘single tier’ authorities in England and Wales, which all function as billing authorities for Council Tax and local education authorities.

We could not find the Freedom Of Information request (please do let us know if you spot it), however data published by media outlets offer the following insights:

  • Nearly 2,500 sibling groups, at least 5,000 children, are currently split up in care;
  • In 30 of the 50 councils, more than 50% of sibling groups had been separated;
  • In Islington, 73% of their sibling groups are split up;
  • In Oxfordshire 68% of their sibling groups are separated;
  • 60% of sibling groups are split in Cheshire West and Chester.

The debate over siblings being separated in care is not new. In August 2012, Martin Narey, who is also dubbed The Adoption Tsar and is currently the government’s senior advisor on all things adoption, urged policy makers to end the presumption that siblings should be kept together.

Narey’s reasons for calling on the government to end this presumption were so poor that we broke them down on this blog. Here are some of his views on the subject, which he aired in an interview with online magazine, Children and Young People Now:

“One of the instances where separation of siblings is probably wise, is where a particular child has started to parent a younger child, where they have compensated for the neglect and abuse they have received by a parent, essentially becoming a parent for the younger child.” 

Surely the better solution is to support the older child in changing their behaviours towards the younger sibling? This can be done by showing the older sibling that there is someone there to support the younger sibling (the parent or carer), a measure which both prevents the siblings from being traumatised by a separation, and at the same time, allows the older sibling to readjust.

“Sibling groups have to wait on average a year longer to be adopted than individual children, due to a shortage of adopters willing and able to adopt groups of children.”

This doesn’t justify re-traumatising already vulnerable children. If we made our care homes loving, supportive environments for these children, waiting would not be an issue.

And whilst we have politicians and figure heads focusing on profit before child protection, it is likely that this kind of poor policy will continue to dog the system.

The data from this Freedom Of Information request is warmly received, and timely. We hope the government will stop looking at short term solutions and start thinking about the bigger picture.