Thousands of children in care are suffering behavioural problems because they are being moved around to different placements and schools too often, a report has found.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, found that 2,000 children had had their social worker, school and placement all change within the course of a year.
Around 50,000 children in care, equivalent to 71 per cent, had experienced some kind of change between 2015 and 2016.
More than 7,000 moved from one care placement to another more than once within the course of a year, and 18,000 experienced two or more changes in their social worker.
One in 10 moved school in the middle of the academic year, three times the national rate.
As well as being damaging to their performance at school, the upheaval experienced by many children in care risks exacerbating behavioural and emotional difficulties, researchers warn.
The setbacks can make it more difficult for children to establish relationships, which in turn can lead to placements breaking down and a deeper sense of isolation.
Ms Longfield said: “Children in the care system crave stability, just like any other child.
“Especially for these kids, having reliable, consistent adults in their lives is critical to helping them flourish and overcome problems they may have experienced in the past.
“Sometimes changes are unavoidable and occur for the right reasons. But when ‘pinball kids’ are pinged around the system, it can damage them and their future prospects.
“Many of these children enter care with complex issues and are highly vulnerable. We must find a better, more consistent way of meeting their needs.”
Ms Longford heard that one girl had not been to school for two years because she was in and out of care, while another was told she would be changing schools in the middle of her GCSEs by text.
The report has introduced a Stability Index, a new measure of continuity in children’s care to help authorities track progress in reducing unnecessary changes and or unplanned moves.