A rise in teenagers going into care ‘leaves system playing catch up’

2 Aug 19

The care system has come under increasing strain in the last five years because of a huge rise in the number of teenagers going into care, according to analysis. 

troubled teenager

 

Between 2012-13 and 2017-18 the number of teenagers – aged 13 and over- going into care rose by 21%, a report by the Children’s Commissioner published yesterday said

The number of over 16-year olds entering care between 2013-14 to 2017-18 went up by 25%.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield explained older children and teenage care entrants often had “more complex” care needs and put more financial strain on the system.

“There are an increasing number of teenage children in the care system and too many of them are ‘pin-balling’ around the system, changing home and family, school and social worker. Often they have the most complex and expensive needs,” she said.

“In one local authority, 20% of the entire children’s services budget is being spent on just ten children. This is completely unsustainable.”

Longfield added: “It is clear that we have a care system which is playing catch up.”

She said instead of babies and young children being taken away from parents who could not cope, teenagers were now being taken into care “experiencing issues such as criminal or sexual exploitation, going missing from home, and parents being unable to protect them”.

Government figures showed there was an increase in the number of children looked after by local authorities in England of 4% (to 75,420 from 72,590) between 31 March 2017 and March 2018.  

Teenagers were also more likely to experience much higher levels of instability – they are around 80% more likely to experience two or more changes of home within a year, compared to the national average, the commissioner noted.

The research showed that over three-year period 52% of children in care moved home at least once and one third did so at least twice. Ten per cent did so four or more times.

On top of this, more than 45,000 children in care – three in five – experienced at least one change in social worker in 2017-18.

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, noted record levels of children entering with care system with 88 being admitted each day last year.

She said: “A national recruitment campaign for foster carers would help ensure we have a choice of families to place children with to best meet their needs. The government should also use the Spending Review to fill the £3.1bn funding gap facing children’s services by 2025.”

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