While the latest DfE data on children looked after in England shows that overall there was a two per cent rise in the number of children coming into care, it is down on last year (three per cent), so the number is in fact slowing and this perhaps suggests more stability in the care system which is welcome.
Adoptions continue to fall and this is an established pattern that will not change in TACT’s view, no matter how much money the DfE spend on promoting it. The gradual fall will occur as the courts and social services increasingly work to avoid family breakdown and utilise the extended family to support this or take n care of children.
It is interesting that the number of children leaving care for Special Guardianship Orders (SGO) is at 12 per cent, the same as adoption. TACT believes that SGO will inevitably be a more common route as a way of finding a permanent family for children and young people, so it perhaps merits the same levels of attention and investment in support from DfE and LA’s as adoption has enjoyed. The current disparity in support is stark and unacceptable.
It is very worrying that at least 26 per cent of 17 year old care leavers are not known to local authorities – that they are somehow missing in other words. This is a concern in relation to the potential for their exploitation by County Lines drug dealing and Childhood Sexual Exploitation. And it is equally worrying that there are 17 year olds currently housed in unsuitable and unregulated accommodation which adds further weight to the argument for regulation of all care settings for under 18s.
The number of young people taking up the Staying Put arrangement, where they remain with their foster carers following their 18th birthday, is still way too low. This is entirely down to the DfE deliberately underfunding Staying Put. And making young people seek Housing Benefit to enable them to remain with their foster families has been particularly toxic. Staying Put is an excellent policy that has been appallingly implemented. DfE should set themselves a target of 50 per cent of young people in foster carer staying put by 2022/23 and 75 per cent by 2025/26.
With regard to the rise in proportion of former care leavers who were unaccompanied asylum seeking Children (UASC), there is no information on what their immigration status is when they become adults, which is a glaring omission. Securing the future status of vulnerable children is a key role for LA’s and attention should be paid to what has happened and highlight the role of the Home Office in creating misery and uncertainty.
With regards those young people who have left care, 27% were without employment or a place on a further education or vocational course but information was not known for 24%. It is terrible that the state has lost track of nearly a quarter of our children, this is straightforward neglectful parenting.