10-year high for children in care

The Local Government Association has revealed that the number of children in care has risen by 28 per cent in the past decade, with council leaders claiming that the system is reaching breaking point.

The latest figures show that 78,150 children are now in care, up from 75,370 in 2018. The LGA is warning that this rise in demand is combining with funding shortages to put immense pressure on the ability of councils to support vulnerable children and young people, as well as how to prevent children and families reaching crisis point in the first place.

According to the latest data, councils have seen a 53 per cent increase in children on child protection plans – an additional 18,160 children – in the past decade. Over the same period, there has been a 139 per cent increase in serious case where the local authority believes a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

Councils were forced to overspend on their children’s social care budgets by almost £800 million last year. The government’s manifesto promise of a review of the children’s social care system, is a great opportunity for them to work with councils and partners, such as schools, social workers and foster carers to improve the system. The LGA says this collaboration is vital if the review is to deliver change where it is most needed amid this unprecedented demand.

Judith Blake, chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “These figures show the sheer scale of the unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services and the care system this decade.  This is unsustainable. Councils want to make sure that children can get the best, rather than just get by, and that means investing in the right services to reach them at the right time.

“Councils need to be given a seat at the table for the care system review, alongside children, families and partners, to make sure this looks at what really matters and what can really make a difference. It needs to ensure that children’s services are fully funded and councils can not only support those children who are in care, but provide the early intervention and prevention support that can stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place.”