Pace of children being taken into care accelerates

By Neil Puffett

| 15 November 2018

The number of children in care has risen to more than 75,000 for the first time, with the pace of increase accelerating, government figures show.

The number of children being taken into care has risen by 2,830 in the space of 12 months. Picture: Adobe Stock

Department for Education statistics published today show that as of 31 March this year, a total of 75,420 were in care, up from 72,590 in 2017 - an increase of 3.9 per cent. Last year the pace of increase was 3.2 per cent - which at the time was the steepest rate of increase in five years.

The latest figure of 75,420 is equivalent to a rate of 64 per 10,000 children in care, up from 62 per 10,000 in 2017 and 60 per 10,000 in 2016.

The government is currently taking steps to reduce numbers of children being taken into care. Delivering the 2018 budget last month Chancellor Philip Hammond said £84m would be provided over the next five years to expand successful children's social care programmes to 20 further councils with "high or rising" numbers of children in care.

Children's minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that the expansion will focus on projects currently running in three local authorities - Hertfordshire, Leeds, and North Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, chief children's social worker for England, Isabelle Trowler, has said that more children at risk of abuse or neglect should remain with their families.

The DfE statistics also show that the number of children being adopted is continuing to fall. In 2017/18, a total of 3,820 children ceased to be looked-after due to adoption, a decrease of 13 per cent on 2017. The fall continues the drop in numbers since a peak of 5,360 adoptions in 2015.

Meanwhile, the number and proportion of 19- and 20-year-olds who ceased to be looked after on their 18th birthday and who were still living with their former foster carers in "Staying Put" arrangements increased slightly from 25 per cent in 2017 to 26 per cent in 2018.

In 2018, 1,800 (55 per cent) children who ceased to be looked after in a foster placement aged 18 remained with their foster carers three months after their 18th birthday, up from 51 per cent last year.

However, a report by The Fostering Network, timed to coincide with the release of the statistics, has warned that the figure is "woefully" low and "simply not good enough".

Kevin Williams, chief executive of the charity, said: "Staying Put had, and still has, the potential to change the lives of generations of young people leaving care for the better.

"It is great news that some young people have benefited from the new law, and we are delighted to hear the success stories, but the failure to implement this policy properly, by the government, local authorities and fostering services, means that too many of these young people are continuing to miss out on stability and support after they turn 18.

"This is simply not good enough and is not what we campaigned for. We are calling on government to conduct a full review into the implementation of Staying Put as well as to introduce a minimum allowance."

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