Number Of Teenagers In Care Has Risen By 21% In Five Years

A report has found that the number of older children going into care is damaging the stability of the system.

Findings have come out from the 2019 Stability Index, an annual measure of the stability of the lives of children in care in England. The Index found that the profile and needs of children in care has changed over the last five years. In 2019, there is a growing share of older children and teenage care entrants who have potentially more expensive living arrangements.

It has been found that teenagers are six times more likely than children under 13 to be living in a  residential or secure children’s home, with nearly half living in privately run accommodation. The number of teenagers in care has risen by 21% between 2012/13 and 2017/18, while the number of 0-5-year-olds fell by 15%. The results found that nearly one in four children in care (23%) are now over 16, and two in five (39%) are aged 10-15.

As well as changes in the profiles of children in care, the Index also looked at the care system itself. It concluded that the explosion of older children going into care over the last five years is hitting the stability of the system.

1 in 10 children in care experienced two or more home moves during 2017/18, and 45,000 children experienced at least one change of social worker in 2017/18. Older teenagers and children who enter care also experience much higher levels of instability- they are around 80% more likely to experience two or more changes of home within a year.

The Children’s Commissioner is warning that councils and the Government have yet to catch up, which is contributing to instability in the care system. They say that councils are spending very high amounts on a very small number of children with acute needs. In one local authority looked at by the Children’s Commissioner, ten children are costing 20% of the entire children’s services budget.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said:

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

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