The population of children in care in England is at a 30-year high, official government statistics have revealed.
A total of 69,540 children were in care at the end of March 2015, the figures published today by the Department for Education said, and the number of looked-after children is “now higher than at any point since 1985”.
The figures show a continued rise in the number of children leaving care for special guardianship placements, and that there was a 15% reduction in the number of children placed for adoption at 31 March 2015 compared to the previous year, and a 24% fall in the number of children granted an adoption placement order.
More than 6,000 children who were looked after during the year 2014-15 were recorded as missing at least once from their placement, new data for this year also revealed. Just over half of these children were accommodated in secure units, children’s homes or hostels when they went missing or away from placement.
Three-quarters of looked-after children are in foster placements, the data revealed, and almost half of children in foster placements eligible for care leaver support stayed with their foster carers for three months after their 18th birthday. Just under 40% of the 26,330 former care leavers aged 19, 20 or 21, were not in education, employment or training, the figures show.
Alison O’Sullivan, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said the overall increase “has placed a massive burden on local authorities and it is to their enormous credit that this increasing challenge has been successfully met and these most vulnerable children continue to receive high quality care and support.
“We believe that the causes for this increase are complex and varied and warrant greater government attention and support, especially in the light of austerity.”
Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, called the 24% fall in children granted an adoption placement order “drastic” and warned that if it continues, there could soon be a “real crisis” for children who need adopting waiting an unnecessary length of time in care.
“It’s crucial that local authorities don’t shy away from acting decisively on adoption,” Khan said.
The fact that almost half of children are ‘staying put’ for a period of time after their 18th birthday was welcomed by the Children’s Commissioner for England.
Anne Longfield added that the increase in the percentage of children who go into care above the age of 16 needed further investigation.
“Authorities must make sure that they have suitable provision for this age group and also that they receive ongoing support when they leave care,” Longfield said.
Following the school’s 2015 excellent exam results with a 100% pass rate for our students once again, our older students are now engaged on college courses in Hospitality and Catering Diploma and Music Performance level 2. One of our young men recently attended an Army recruitment event and is working hard towards being selected in the summer time.
Our new students are settling in well and covering a number of bespoke subjects including:
English; Maths; Science; ICT; Citizenship; History; French; Music; PE; Enrichment.
Enrichment is new to our timetable and will provide lots of community based opportunities for our young people starting with work experience at a local Animal Sanctuary. We have also sponsored a local under 15’s football team which will also enhance our community based work.
By Joe Lepper
Councils are failing to identify and support child sexual exploitation (CSE) victims due to a lack of investment in youth counselling services, a study into a government-backed initiative has claimed.
An evaluation of a two-year youth counselling initiative run by Youth Access found that the 743 young people who used the services across three locations – Hackney in London, Hampshire, and Leeds – were experiencing a range of serious issues including CSE.
The most common reasons young people sought help were found to be for emotional abuse and sexual exploitation, followed by neglect, sexual abuse, domestic violence, and physical abuse.
But despite the seriousness of the problems, the study found that fewer than one in four of the young people (23 per cent) were previously known to social workers.
Barbara Rayment, director of Youth Access, said the study shows that councils are not doing enough to support older young people.
“The child protection system is failing to protect older teenagers,” she said. “Youth Information, Advice and Counselling Services (YIACS) are seen by many vulnerable young people as trustworthy and accessible sources of support. Importantly, they offer open access non-stigmatising drop-in services to which young people can self-refer.
“They can also offer longer-term and more in-depth interventions and broker access to statutory safeguarding services when needed.”
Rayment has called on councils to boost their funding of local YIACS as an effective, non-stigmatising way of better identifying older teenagers in need of protection and support.
Youth Access advice services development manager James Kenrick says in all three areas the service was run, CSE victims not known to local child protection teams were identified and helped. He said: “CSE was definitely one of the big issues in our findings. The evaluation shows that all areas involved increased the numbers of people at risk of CSE that they were engaging with. In particular they were able to target young male victims, who are often ignored by other services. We also found those with disabilities at risk of CSE.
The majority of those that came to the services were female but it was interesting that the services were also able to identify other specific groups.”
Kenrick added that without early identification offered by YIACS, vulnerable young people may not receive any support at all and be left at even greater risk of harm or exploitation.
A 2013 report by Youth Access and the Young People’s Health Partnership revealed the extent to which councils were cutting funding for charity-run YIACS.
This showed that the proportion receiving funding from their council had fallen from 90 per cent to 78 per cent between 2011 and 2013.
Helping to identify CSE victims was a key aim the Youth Access project – called Right 2B Safe project – which was funded through a £784,000 Department for Education grant.
An interesting couple of weeks for our young people over the school holidays. We’ve been gorge walking in Llangollen which everybody thoroughly enjoyed; this pushed our team outside of their usual comfort zones but left them feeling ecstatic with their achievements.
We have also had a day out white water tubing on the river Dee and as a final treat before the new term begins, we will be mountain biking this weekend. Let’s hope all the cobwebs have been blown away ahead of Monday..
We’ve just received feedback following our recent interim Ofsted inspection,
‘Improved Effectiveness on Outstanding Service’.
Well done to the Full Circle Care team…
Our teaching team had great pleasure in taking our young people to Cumbria this week on a field trip. They all rekindled their childhoods by visiting the Beatrix Potter museum and took advantage of introducing the young people to Peter Rabbit – strange to think that some of them had never heard of him!
Today, Neil Puffett reports on how the coalition government has failed to make any progress in getting children into the right placement when they first enter care and ensuring it is close to their home, a damning report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has found.
The NAO said the number of children with more than one care placement has stayed the same since 2009. Picture: Arlen Connelly
A study by the NAO, which scrutinises public spending on behalf of parliament, found that despite the Department for Education (DfE) having an objective of improving placement stability, at the end of March 2013, 34 per cent of children in care had more than one placement during the year, the same proportion as in 2009.
Meanwhile, 14 per cent of foster children and 34 per cent of those in residential care were placed more than 20 miles from home – a proportion that has also not improved in the last four years.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said too many children taken into care are not getting the right placement first time.
“If their complex and challenging learning and development needs are not correctly assessed and tackled, the result is likely to be significant long-term detriment to the children themselves as well as cost to society,” he added.
“No progress has been made in the last four years.
“If the Department for Education is to break this pattern, then it needs to use its new Innovation Programme to understand what works, especially in terms of early intervention.”
The Department for Education has refuted the NAO’s assertion that outcomes have not improved, claiming that the majority of first placements for children are “emergency placements” and the proportion of children with two or more placements is far lower, at 11 per cent.
Children’s minister Edward Timpson described the NAO’s analysis as “fundamentally flawed and misleading”.
“I will always be the first to say that more needs to be done but this report ignores the very real progress that has been made in transforming the life chances of children in care,” he added.
“It is a fact that since 2010, children in care are doing better at school and absences from school have decreased.
“Foster children can also now stay at home until the age of 21, and this year a record number of children found places in stable, loving homes through adoption.”
Enver Solomon, director of evidence and impact at the National Children’s Bureau, said that while his organisation welcomes the fact the government has sought to tackle issues such as the stability of placements, the quality of residential care, and support for care leavers, there is “plenty of room for further improvement”.
“Central and local government must ensure that those planning services have the evidence, knowledge and capacity to meet the needs of every child in care, and are subject to effective oversight,” he added.
Matthew Horton, head of family placement at Barnardo’s, said the needs of children, rather than cost, should be of paramount importance in finding placements for children in care.
“Local authorities need to consider the long-term costs to society of a child being in the wrong placement or moved unnecessarily, which can result in persistent problems for children as they grow up,” he added.
“Being in care can be a transformative experience for some children but it is essential that they are given the right placement and are protected from unnecessary moves.
“Without this, these children, many of whom have been neglected or abused, are missing out on the care and stability they so desperately need.”
The report also found that:
- Demand for care is increasing with 68,110 children in care at the end of March 2013, an increase of two per cent on March 2012 and an 18 per cent increase compared with March 2000.
- Unless their needs are correctly assessed and met effectively, there are significant long-term costs of children not getting the right care. In 2013, 34 per cent of all care leavers were not in education, employment or training at 19 compared with 15.5 per cent of 18-year-olds in the general population.
- Local authorities are finding it harder to assess the needs of children in care, partly due to financial pressures.
- Because of changes in the inspection regime, the DfE does not know if standards in foster agencies and residential homes are genuinely improving or worsening.
Annie Hudson, chief executive of the College of Social Work, said it must be ensured that the “whole system” works for children.
“Social workers undoubtedly have a critical role, but equally other agencies such as health, schools and the police are integral to helping children in care to have fulfilling and successful lives,” she said.