A CHILD from the Highlands has been moved more than 300 miles from home due to a local foster care shortage.

As many as 11 youngsters have been placed more than 200 miles away from their communities.

Seven had to move 250 miles and one was placed 301 miles away, according to disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act. The distance is around the equivalent of that between Fort William and Cardiff.

It is not known exactly where the youngsters hail from or where they have been relocated by Highland Council, which says it has kept youngsters within the country.

But Kate Forbes, the SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, says the local authority must take urgent action to drive up carer numbers.

At less than £78 per week, foster carers in the area are paid less to look after children aged four and under than in any other part of Scotland. The £96 rate for youngsters aged five to 10 is also the nation’s lowest and the council pays a single fee to carers regardless of how many children are being fostered.

It is understood that most other local authorities pay a fee per child.

Forbes said: “It is difficult enough for any child going through the fostering and adoption process, never mind being placed 300 miles away from home. While I fully understand there will be times when it is a risk for a child to remain near their own home, Highland Council should not be sending children to another country.

“This has all sorts of repercussions, such as different school systems that will likely disrupt their education, not to mention the costs and staff time for mandatory social work visits.”

As of February, the council had 122 children in foster care. The number of new foster carers recruited fell from 13 in 2016 to just five last year.

The council said it wants to bring its allowances into line with those of other councils “at the earliest opportunity”, adding: “There are additional and discretionary allowances that Highland pays depending on individual circumstances.

“It is not always a negative that children are placed at a distance from their family and home town due to their assessed needs. We have not placed any children outwith Scotland and would endeavour to identify suitable placements in Highland at the earliest opportunity.”

Duncan Dunlop, CEO of Who Cares? Scotland, said: “Unfortunately these statistics are not surprising. We suspect that if the research was conducted for the whole of Scotland, we could see a similar story elsewhere.

“As well as young people in Scotland moved far from home, we are also supporting young people from England. Behind each of these statistics is a child who is living with the consequences of these decisions.”