Number of looked after children rises

DfE figures show 4 per cent increase of children in care

Published on 22nd November 2018

The number of children in care has risen by 4 per cent in the last year, Department for Education figures reveal.

There were 75,420 looked after children in England on 31 August 2018, up 4% from 72,590 in 2017. However, the number of children starting to be looked after has fallen slightly by 3% after a period of gradual increases and the number ceasing to be looked after has fallen again by 5% to 29,860, from a high of 31,850 in 2016.

31% of children ceasing to be looked after returned home to their parents. 13% were adopted (down from 17% in 2014) and 11% ceased to be looked after with a special guardianship order.

The main reasons for children being assessed were:

- Abuse and neglect - 47,530 children

- Family dysfunction - 11,270

- Acute family stress - 5,980

- Absent parenting (largely affecting asylum seeking children) - 4,860

The numbers and proportions of children looked after under a care order continue to increase and the number who are looked after through a voluntary arrangement continue to decrease.

Most looked after children are accommodated in foster placements and at 31 March 2018, 55,200 (73%) children looked after were in foster placements, an increase in numbers from 53,010 in 2017.

An increasing proportion of those children in foster care have been placed with relative or friends, up steadily from 14% in 2014 to 18% in 2018.

There has continued to be a fall in children placed with prospective adopters. 2,230 children were placed for adoption at 31 March 2018, down 18% on the 2,710 children placed for adoption at 31 March 2017.

The number of children looked after who were adopted peaked in 2015 at 5,360 and has since been falling. In 2017, 4,370 children looked after were adopted and this has decreased further by 13% to 3,820 in 2018.

At 31 March 2018 there were 4,480 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, down 4% on the number at 31 March 2017. In 2018, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children continue to represent around 6% of all children looked after in England.

The DfE briefing found that 11,530 looked after children had a missing incident in the year ending 31 March 2018, which was 11% of looked after children during the year. These children had 70,250 missing incidents, an average of 6.1 missing incidents per child. The majority - 48% -  of these missing incidents were from secure units, children’s homes and semi-independent living arrangements and 29% were from foster placements.

In the year ending 31 March 2018, local authorities were in touch with 88% of 19 to 21 year olds care leavers. For 19 to 21 year old care leavers, 6% were known to be in higher education, 20% were in other education, 25% were in training or employment and 39% were known to be not in education, employment or training.

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 under ‘Staying Put’ arrangements increased slightly from 25% in 2017 to 26% in 2018.

DfE briefing on children looked after (including adoption)

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