50,000 children in care where council services are failing

The Social Market Foundation has revealed that the number of vulnerable children being cared for in areas where council services are failing is going up.

The think-tank has stressed that it is ‘shameful’ that 48,723 children were looked after in local authorities whose services are classed as either ‘inadequate’ or ‘requiring improvement’. It is accusing politicians and opinion-formers of ‘ignoring the welfare of thousands of the most vulnerable members of our society’.

The number of looked after children in England has been rising steadily for several years. In 2013, there were 68,070 children in care, but in 2018 the total was 75,420. The SMF found that 65 per cent of all looked-after children in England are in council areas where services have been found wanting.

The think-tank has also called on ministers to establish a Charter for Looked-After Children, committing to raising the standards of care we expect and closing the gap in outcomes between children with experience of care and their peers.

The Silent Crisis 2019 report has been supported by Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, who said people would be ‘shocked’ at the findings and said that ‘the government has to put this right’.

Longfield said: “I welcome this work from the SMF, who like me want to see more public, political and media focus on some of the most vulnerable youngsters in our society. I think people will be shocked, that nearly a quarter of those going into care in recent years are older teenagers, shocked that whilst the numbers of children taken into care has been going up, the majority of councils have been assessed as being inadequate for children in care. The government has to put this right. These most vulnerable kids have had the toughest start in life and rely on the state for nearly every aspect of their life.

“We might imagine from the news that potholes, street lights and bin collections are what councils are for but looking after these vulnerable children properly is one of their most important roles and government must make sure councils make it the best experience they possibly can, part of which is funding them properly to do so. At the moment they aren’t, and too often it isn’t.”