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Within: Safeguarding Children and Young People

Related to: Inequalities, Education Attainment, Wellbeing, People with Multiple Needs, Special Educational Needs

Key Facts:

  • At the end of March 2015 there were 149 Looked After children
  • B&NES has a lower number of Looked After Children and young people than the England average as expected and is broadly similar to its statistical neighbours
  • Locally we are showing an increase in looked after children aged 1-4
  • 66% of young people leaving care are in employment, education or training, this figure has increased in comparison to last year’s figure of 61%
  • The costs of providing care for children in B&NES are likely to increase over time. The number of children placed in residential children’s homes continues to rise

Looked After Children (Children in Care) definition 1

As defined in the Children Act 1989 - all children and young people being looked after by a local authority:

  • Those subject to care orders or interim care orders
  • Those who are voluntarily accommodated, including unaccompanied asylum seeking children (where children are accommodated under this provision, parental responsibility remains with the parents)
  • Those who are subject to court orders with residence requirement (e.g. secure remand, or remand to local authority accommodation).

When a child is assessed as being at risk of significant harm they are placed on a child protection register (or in England made the subject of a child protection plan). These statistics are not a measure of how much child abuse has occurred. Research indicates that abuse and neglect are both under-reported and under-recorded.

National Sufficiency Guidance states that ‘securing sufficient accommodation requires a whole-system approach that includes early intervention and preventive services to support children in their families, as well as better services for children if they do become looked after’

Emotional well-being of looked after children 2

Under Section 10 of the Children Act 2004, local authorities have a duty to co-operate to promote wellbeing among children and young people. The cross-government mental health strategy, No Health without Mental Health, identifies looked after children as one of the particularly vulnerable groups at risk of developing mental health problems.

What does the data say? 3

At the end of March 2015 there were 149 Looked After children. Out of the 149 Children in Care at the end of the reporting period 16 were placed outside of the adjacent authorities.

Figure 1: Number of looked after children at end of quarter 12/13 to 15/16

B&NES has a lower number of Looked After Children and young people than the England average as expected and is broadly similar to its statistical neighbours. The table below sets out how it compares.

Figure 2: Rate per 10,000 (0-17 population) of looked after children in B&NES, statistical neighbours and England

Historically, local rates per 10,000 (0-17 population) of looked after children are lower National and broadly similar to our statistical neighbours.

Nationally, over a third of Looked After Children are aged between 10 and 15 years (according to the DfE 2014-15 data). There has been a steady rise reported in the number of 10 years old and above who are looked after for a number of years however locally there has been a very slight decrease (213 for 2014-15 and 204 for 2015-16).

Nationally the DfE report a fall in the last two years (2013-2015) in the number of one to four year olds looked after; however locally we are showing an increase from 2014-15 to 2015-16 of 14.6% (157 in 2014-15 to 180 in 2015-16).

Figure 3: Gender breakdown of looked after children in B&NES 14/15 to 15/16 by quarter

The data shows a slight reduction in the number of females in comparison to males. However the variation from previous years is broadly similar.

It remains the aspiration to reduce the numbers of older young people coming into fostercare, and 15/16 saw a reduced number of young people in this age group entering the care system.

Figure 4: Ethnicity of children in care in B&NES as at 31/03/2016

The number of Children in Care from BME backgrounds has decreased from the previous year. The percentages are as expected for the local population. The majority of children in care are White British. Nationally, the majority of children looked after are from White British background similar to the general population of all children 4

Figure 5: Breakdown of legal staus of looked after children in B&NES as at 31/03/2016

When comparing the legal status of our Looked After Children with the statistical neighbours and national benchmarking we see that only 6.7% of B&NES children were on interim Care Orders in comparison with 13% and 11% (respectively).

However B&NES are more in line with the national figure for children on full Care Orders which stands at 49% rather than the 39% reported by our statistical neighbours. We are slightly higher than both in terms of the percentage of Placement Orders which is 9% for our statistical neighbours and 11% nationally. Finally we are in between the national figure for those accommodated under section 20 (29%) and our statistical neighbours 38%.

National NI66 reviews on time for children and young people in care for over a year for 2015-16 is 95.2%. Local NI66 review on time for children and young people in care (including those in care for less than a year) for 2015-16 is 93.3%. 398 reviews were carried out during the year; children and young people are encouraged to participate in these and in 95% of cases some form of participation took place.

Long term care demand modelling 5

A study was commissioned in summer 2012 to model potential future changes in demand for care placements.

Based on this modelling an estimate of demand has been generated of as many as 273 by 2035.

Engagement with commissioners suggests that the higher end of these estimates is more likely to be experienced.

As a result there is also a significant variation in projected cost increases, with costs expected to change from £5.8m to between £8.2m £16.2m by 2035 in today’s prices. Although an external event causing a reduction in care volume could reduce this.

What does the community say?

In Care Council 6

Locally, the In Care Council is a group of young people who meet to represent and work on behalf of children and young people in care and leaving care. They have helped the Council to formulate “The pledge to children in care” which outlines the commitments of Children’s Services to children in care.

A consultation was carried out with the young people to find out their views of the way which B&NES commissions services for them. They were asked a series of questions to find out their views of their own experience of being placed with foster carers by B&NES and what they thought could improve the experience for children in care.

They thought that:

  • More money should be spent on meeting specific needs of children, but B&NES should spend money supporting families in order to prevent children coming into foster care.
  • Placements in with independent fostering agencies should be used in addition to the in-house provision
  • Siblings should be kept together
  • Time should be spent on effectively matching placements.

Are we meeting the needs?

The B&NES Sufficiency Statement for Looked After Children Placements in the Independent Sector November 2016 set out the current state of placement sufficiency in B&NES and highlights the following needs: 7

  • Foster placements in Bath city and within a reasonable travelling distance of B&NES schools.
  • Foster placements for children aged 14 – 18 year with challenging needs.
  • Residential step down placements within B&NES.
  • Residential children’s homes closer to B&NES who accommodate children with very challenging behaviour.
  • Increased market capacity for 16 - 25 accommodation and support.
  • Placements for unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC).

For more information click here to see the B&NES Sufficiency Statement for Looked After Children Placements in the Independent Sector November 2016 document.

Outcomes for looked after children

During 2015/16 66 children and young people left care, four of whom were adopted. There are an additional 11 children who are on the adoption pathway.

During the period 91.5% of young people (aged 19, 20 and 21) leaving care have suitable and stable accommodation; this compares to 90.9% in 2014-15. This compares to 77% for statistical neighbours and 80.7% England average.

66% of young people leaving care are in employment, education or training, this figure has increased in comparison to last year’s figure of 61%. This figure of 61% was in line with national benchmarking which the DfE state as 39% were not in education, employment or training for 2015.

Foster care 8

Foster care is the preferred placement choice for most children.  

In house foster care – Family Placement Team (FPT) provides:

  • Emergency and respite placements
  • Short breaks for disabled children and young people
  • Short term placements preparing children for a return to their family or for adoption
  • Long term (permanency) placements, eventually preparing young people for independence and adulthood
  • Parent and child placements
  • Placements for sibling groups.

Independent Fostering Agencies - B&NEs Council have a preferred provider list of 36 IFAs.  Commissioned in partnership with: Wiltshire, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, Dorset and North Somerset.

Residential Children’s Homes 9

B&NES Council has a preferred provider list (2012-16) of 38 providers with over 100 homes. This was commissioned in partnership with: Wiltshire, Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire and North Somerset.

B&NES Council does not directly provide or manage any registered children’s homes. It is one of the few Local Authorities in England that do not have any independently managed children’s homes within the local authority. As a consequence, where it is recognised a residential placement is required, children have to be placed outside B&NES geographical boundaries.