Number of children looked after by local authorities rises for 10th year

By Nina Massey, Press Association Education Correspondent

The number of children looked after by local authorities has increased for the 10th year in a row.

According to statistics released by the Department for Education (DfE), at the end of March this year there were 75,420 looked after children in England, up 4% on the previous year (72,590).

This represents the biggest year-on-year increase since 2010.

(PA Graphics)

In 2008 there were 59,370 looked after children.

This year saw a drop in the number of children starting to be looked after, 32,050 – down 3% on last year – and 29,860 ceased to be looked after, down 5%.

The data also revealed the number of adoptions from care continued to fall this year, down 13% from last year to 3,820.

But as the number of children in care increases, some research suggests children do not always know why they are not at home.

Charity Coram Voice and the University of Bristol surveyed 2,684 children across 17 local authorities, as part of the Our Lives, Our Care study.

The results indicated that around 49% of four to seven-year-olds, and one-third of eight to 11-year-olds did not fully understand why they were in care.

One child aged between four and seven, given the pseudonym Billie, said: “I would like to know more about why I am in care and why I am not living with my mum.”

According to the DfE figures released on Thursday, the largest age group (39%) of looked after children were aged 10 to 15-years-old, 23% were aged 16 years and over, 19% were between five and nine-years-old.

Some 13% were aged one to four-years-old and 6% were aged under one.

Three-quarters of looked after children were of white ethnicity, 9% were of mixed ethnicity and 7% were of black or black British ethnicity.

When broken down by reason for being looked after, 47,530 children were identified as having a primary need of abuse or neglect.

While 11,270 were in need due to family dysfunction, and 5,980 were due to the family being in acute stress.

Some 4,860 were identified as in need due to absent parenting – almost all of whom were unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

Minister for children and families Nadhim Zahawi said: “We want every child to be in a loving, stable home that’s right for them.

“In most cases children are best looked after by their families and courts will only remove children as a last resort, when it is in the child’s best interests.

“But where a child cannot live at home, we must make sure they are safe and receive the highest quality care, which is why we are working hard to improve the social care support for children who through no fault of their own have been dealt a difficult hand in life.”

The DfE recently announced an additional £410  million for adult and children’s social care in 2019/20 and is investing £84 million over the next five years to build on existing programmes developing approaches to help children stay in a stable family home.

:: Under the Children Act 1989, a child is looked after by a local authority if they fall into one of the following:
– is provided with accommodation, for a continuous period of more than 24 hours
– is subject to a care order, or
– is subject to a placement order