Welsh councils feel the pressure as costs and placements keep on rising

    The number of Welsh children in care continues to rise, as do
    the costs to councils of looking after them, new figures have
    revealed.

    There were 4,431 children looked after by Welsh councils on 31
    March 2005 – 1 per cent more than a year earlier and 10 per cent up
    on 2002. The weekly cost of placing children in foster care and
    residential homes rose by more than 10 per cent.

    There were mixed results on other indicators. Although a higher
    proportion of looked-after children began their first placements
    with a care plan, the percentage in care on their 16th birthday
    with a care or pathway plan was lower.

    But placement stability has slightly improved, with the
    proportion of looked-after children with three or more placements
    in a year falling from 11 per cent to 10 per cent.

    Mike Lewis, policy director at Children in Wales, said the
    increase in the number of looked-after children could be due to
    better assessments by councils.

    But he said evidence from councils also suggested that more
    parents were misusing drugs, which could cause children to be taken
    into care.

    He said councils were under increasing financial pressure
    because of the rise in the number of looked-after children in the
    past three years. “I know that’s causing strain for local
    authorities at a time when some of them were struggling anyway,” he
    said.

    He also highlighted the problem of English councils placing
    children with independent providers in Wales and putting more
    pressure on already-struggling services, such as child and
    adolescent mental health.

    Lewis said: “It seems unfair that at a time when there aren’t
    enough resources, independent providers are starting up in Wales,
    and also in England, and there’s no onus on them to provide the
    specialist services young people need.”

    The statistics did, however, point to progress by councils in
    adult services. The rate of delayed transfers of care for social
    care reasons for over-75s nearly halved, while there was an
    increase in the percentage of adult clients who received a written
    statement of their needs and how they would be met.

    But the weekly costs of residential and home care for adults
    rose.

     

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