Number of children in care reaches 10-year high

The number of children in care has risen by 28% in the past decade the Local Government Association (LGA) has revealed.

The LGA said that 78,150 children are now in care, up from 75,370 in 2018. A huge increase in demand that, combined with funding shortages, is putting immense pressure on councils. And hindering their ability to support vulnerable children and young people, and provide the early help that can stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place.

An LGA spokesman said councils have seen a 53% increase in children on child protection plans (an additional 18,160 children) in the past decade. And that there has been a 139%  increase in serious cases (an additional 117,070) where the local authority believes a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.

It found that the age of children in care has been steadily increasing over the past five years. Young people over 10- years-old account for 63% of all in care and teenagers are six times more likely than younger children to be living in residential or secure children’s homes, which is significantly more expensive than foster care.

The LGA also said that councils were forced to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by almost £800 million last year in order to try and keep children safe, despite allocating more money than the previous year to try to keep up with demand.

Tory bosses promised a review of the children’s social care system in their manifesto prior to the election and the LGA said it is vital that councils work with schools, social workers and foster carers to ensure the review delivers change where it is most needed, amid this unprecedented demand.

Central to this review must be securing the financial sustainability of children’s social care services, the LGA said. It said it’s the only way councils can deliver their legal duties, protect the preventative services which support families before they reach crisis point and improve the lives of children and families.

Any funding commitment for children’s social care should also enable councils to fully support kinship carers, who provide vital care for children often outside the formal care system and care leavers, making sure that these young people get the same opportunities as their peers.

Cllr Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said:  ‘These figures show the sheer scale of the unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services and the care system this decade.

‘This is unsustainable. Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by, and that means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time.

‘Councils need to be given a seat at the table for the care system review, alongside children, families and partners, to make sure this looks at what really matters and what can really make a difference.

‘It needs to ensure that children’s services are fully funded and councils can not only support those children who are in care, but provide the early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place.’

A government spokesman said: ‘We are investing £1.5 billion in social care so that every child in care receives the support they need, no matter where they live.

‘But we know that too many children are waiting for the stable and loving home they deserve, which is why we are boosting the number of foster and adoptive parents and offering plenty of support to these families from the word go – including £45 million through the Adoption Support Fund, announced recently by the Education Secretary.

‘We are moving forward with a review of the system so that children receive the best possible care.’

Photo Credit – Local Government Association

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