Number of children in care rises by 6%

The number of looked-after children in England has risen by 6% (64, 400) since last year, new statistics from the Department for Education show.

The number of looked-after children in England has risen by 6% (64, 400) since last year, new statistics from the Department for Education show, however adoption rates have dropped by 15%.

Of the overall number of children in care, 9,500 children were new to the care system during the year ending 31 March 2010 a figure which has gone up 13% in the last four years.

While the number of fostered children has risen by 4% from last year adoption rates fell by 15%. Only 2,300 were placed for adoption compared with 3,000 in 2006, an overall drop of 24% over last four years.

Children’s minister Tim Loughton said the figures “confirm what we already know- that children’s social services are working under increasing pressure”. He said the fall-out from the Baby P case was still being felt but maintained that the Munro review would help by freeing social workers from bureaucracy.

“For many children, care will be the best option. But the care system must work better for them. We want to see local authorities working more effectively to place children, whether that’s in foster care, residential care, or adoption. These children deserve stability and security, but there are still too many delays, particularly in placing children for adoption. Over the coming months, a new Adoption Advisory Group will be considering some of these issues, and in March we will publish slimmed down guidance to help LAs improve their care planning.”

The main reason for children being taken into care was because of abuse or neglect (52%) with an extra 2,100 children entering this category and a further 1,100 taken into care because of family dysfunction. However, the number of unaccompanied asylum-seekng children who were looked after has dropped by 12% from 2009.

The government also published figures on the numbers of referrals, assessments and child protection plans, however has avoided making comparisons with previous years because the figures have been collected in a different way.

There were 607,500 referrals to children’s social care services in the year ending 31 March 2010 compared with 547,000 recorded in 2009.

The figures show that the number of children on child protection plans is increasing with 44,500 children becoming the subject of a child protection plan and only 38,000 children ceasing to be the subject of a plan.

Martin Narey, chief executive of the charity Barnardo’s and a member of the Munro review of child proteciton, said the figures showed social workers were no longer giving parents the benefit of the doubt.

“The government should accept that the number of children in care might have to remain at the current higher level. Care for children can and should be improved, but it is always a better option for neglected children than being left with parents who cannot adequately care for them.”

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