Ofsted today released data and analysis of where looked-after children across England were placed as of 31 March 2013.
Information was collected from local authorities in July 2013 as part of a voluntary process, with all 152 returning data.
“The data presented is a snapshot of children looked after and their placements on a particular day and is therefore an historical view,” the paper says.
“It is intended as a broad insight into the types of placements in which children looked after live and where they are living. It is not intended to be a commentary on local authority decision-making; we are not making any judgements on local authority performance.”
Below are 10 key stats we pulled out of the report.
1. One in 20 children are placed more than 50 miles from home
Of 64,201 children for whom placement location was known, five per cent (3,059) had been placed more than 50 miles from their local authority boundary while 63 per cent were within it. Among children placed in homes, the figures were 17 per cent and 46 per cent respectively. Twenty-one children had been placed outside the UK, most with friends and relatives.
2. Foster placements dominate
Seventy-five per cent of the 67,886 looked-after children identified in the report were in foster placements. Just 11 per cent of the total were with relatives or friends – a comparable figure to the 6,141 in children’s homes – with 64 per cent placed with other foster carers.
3. Looked-after children are likeliest to live in the North West
Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the North West of England as being home to just over one in seven of the UK population. Yet the Ofsted data shows that almost one-fifth of the 63,860 children known to have been placed in England lived in the region in March 2013.
4. Placements in independent living correlate with deprivation
Children in independent living or residential accommodation were more than twice as likely as others to live in the most deprived areas of the country: 48 per cent of children looked after in these placement types were living in the most deprived areas while 5 per cent lived in the least deprived. Seventeen of 20 local authorities with the highest overall proportion of children placed in the most deprived areas were within London; the capital was also the area with the highest number of children – six per cent – in independent living accommodation. “It is unclear whether children and young people are more likely to be placed in independent living earlier in London, while they remain looked after, or whether local authorities in other regions are under-recording those children and young people placed in independent living,” the report says.
5. One in ten placements were not Ofsted-inspected
The study found 6,968 children living in placements not inspected by Ofsted. These included children and young people in independent living, placed with their own parents or persons with parental responsibility, children in refuge, in NHS or health trust, or in residential accommodation such as hostels, adult residential care homes, residential employment and young offenders institutions.
6. One in five local authorities had at least one missing child
A total of 95 children had been missing from placement for at least 24 hours as of 31 March 2013, 41 of whom were from the South East. The report raises a possible explanation as being the large number of ports in the region via which young people who arrive in the UK via trafficking to vanish into Europe. It also questions the rigour of some local authorities’ monitoring procedures, suggesting the true figure may have been higher.
7. Most children were placed via local authority-run services
Almost two-thirds of looked-after children overall had been places with a local authority service (for children in foster care the figure rose to 69 per cent). However, 24 local authorities placed more than 50 per cent of their children via independent fostering services.
8. Some councils only placed children in private children’s homes
Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge and Southwark placed children exclusively in privately run homes, while another 17 authorities used private institutions for more than 90 per cent of placements. Across the UK, 28 per cent of children had been placed in homes run by local authorities.
9.Half of children’s home places were unused
There were 6,141 children placed in children’s homes on 31 March 2013. There were 11,509 places available, 2,000 of them residential special schools, where children stay more than 295 days of the year, meaning the vacancy rate was 47 per cent. “This was the position on the day in question and is not necessarily an indication of the situation the day before, or the day after, or any other day,” cautions the Ofsted report.
10. The private and voluntary sector look after one in three children
More than 600 different private- and voluntary-sector organisations were found to be looking after over 23,000 children at the time of the study – 563 of these looked after 14,007 children via a single service. Fifty-seven larger private and voluntary organisations owned a service in more than one provider type: two-thirds (38) of these owned both children’s homes and fostering services, while further nine owned children’s homes, fostering and adoption services.