Children’s care system ‘in crisis’ as cases hit 10-year high amid ‘unprecedented demand’

Children’s care system ‘in crisis’ as cases hit 10-year high amid ‘unprecedented demand’

Children’s care system ‘in crisis’ as cases hit 10-year high amid ‘unprecedented demand’

Ministers are urged to launch an independent review after the number of children in care soars by more than a quarter in 10 years.

More than 78,000 children were in care in England at the end of March 2019. File pic

The children’s care system is in crisis after cases hit a 10-year high amid “unprecedented” and “unsustainable” demand, the government has been warned.

The children’s commissioner has urged ministers to launch an independent review after new figures revealed the number of youngsters in care has soared by more than a quarter over the last decade.

Official data collated by the Local Government Association (LGA) show there were 78,150 children in care in England at the end of March 2019.

This compares with 60,900 children in care at the same point a decade earlier, the LGA said.

Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, said the government made a manifesto commitment to review the children’s care system and it “needs to be launched as soon as possible”.

“The care system is in crisis, struggling to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children,” she said.

“The system has been too slow to respond to the changing nature of demand, particularly for older children which means we now have a chronic shortage of decent places for our most vulnerable children to live.”

Ms Longfield said too many older children in particular were being placed in areas they do not know, being unsettled by often moving home and changing social worker, which was affecting their performance at school.

Other children were also “living in sub-standard accommodation and at risk of criminal or sexual exploitation, in many cases the very factor that put them in care in the first place”, she added.

Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield thinks the summer break is of suitable length

 

In the decade between 2009 and 2019, there was a 53% rise in the number of children on a child protection plan and a 139% increase in Section 47 enquiries, where a local authority believes a child may be suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm, the LGA said.

Meanwhile, figures from the Office for National Statistics show that English councils’ expenditure on children’s social care in 2018-19 increased by £514m on the previous year, rising to a total of £9.4bn.

Councillor Judith Blake, chairwoman of the LGA’s children and young people board, said the figures showed the “sheer scale of the unprecedented demand pressures on children’s services and the care system this decade”.

“This is unsustainable,” she said.

“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.”

Cllr Blake called for councils to “be given a seat at the table” for the care system review to ensure “children’s services are fully funded” and local authorities can provide early interventions to “stop children and families reaching crisis point in the first place”.

The government says it is investing £1.5bn in social care “so that every child in care receives the support they need, no matter where they live”.

A spokeswoman added: “We know that too many children are waiting for the stable and loving home they deserve, which is why we are boosting the number of foster and adoptive parents and offering plenty of support to these families from the word go – including £45m through the Adoption Support Fund, announced recently by the education secretary.

“We are moving forward with a review of the system so that children receive the best possible care.”

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Children’s care system ‘in crisis’ as cases hit 10-year high amid ‘unprecedented demand’

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