I was gutted to read that the number of children in the care system in England is rising. Department for Education data shows the number of children in local authority care rose by 2% from 65,520 last year to 67,050 this year.
The figures reveal 28,220 children were taken into care during the year ending 31 March 2012, an increase of 3% from the previous year’s figure of 27,500. The data also shows more youngsters were adopted, with 3,450 given a home. Most affected are 10 to 15-year-olds, with 24,150 currently in care.
The main reason for children living apart from their parents is to protect them from abuse or neglect, with 41,790 of those currently in care falling in this category. Family dysfunction was the next most common reason given for being taken into care, with 9,530 children falling into this category. After this, “family in acute stress” affected 6,000 youngsters. And a total of 3,490 children had absent parents.
The number of babies less than a year old taken into care has also risen, from 3,680 last year to 4,190 this year. The official figures show there has been a steady rise in children being taken into care since 2008, from 59,380 to 67,050 in 2012 – 7,670 more children in total.
The death after months of abuse of Peter Connelly, in north London in 2007, is thought to have contributed to the increase. Social workers in the “Baby P” case were criticised for not removing the 17-month-old from his home sooner, prompting a mood of caution in the profession.
The figures also show that 3,450 looked after children were adopted during the year ending 31 March 2012. This is the highest figure since 2007 and an increase of 12% from the 2011 figure of 3,090 adoptions. These figures will please the coalition government, which has sought to make it easier for couples to adopt.
Children’s Minister Edward Timpson said:
“The rise in the number of adoptions and adoption placement orders is extremely welcome, but it still takes too long for those who want to adopt and foster to be approved. The time it takes for a child in care to be adopted can be a significant period in that child’s life.”
Mr Timpson, whose parents fostered abandoned youngsters, said a government shake-up of the system would cut the time children spent in care before they were adopted.
The British Association for Adoption and Fostering was “pleased” with the rise in the number of youngsters adopted, but urged more potential adoptive parents to offer their homes. Chief executive David Holmes said:
“To make further progress we need to see a concerted whole system focus on increasing adopter recruitment, speeding up court processes, improving the adopter assessment process and ensuring adoption support. We know that adoption works and we owe it to every child who has a plan for adoption to realise that plan for them without delay.”
In one sense it is good to see that since the Baby P case, social care has worked hard to ensure that they are doing their utmost to protect children and young people, and therefore it is natural to see some sort of increase in the number of children in care. However, to see over 67,000 children and young people in care is soul destroying.
What is your reaction to these figures?