Every child should grow up safe, happy and be able to reach their full potential, however, for some children this means that they need to be taken into the care of the local authority (either on a voluntary basis or under court order). Local authorities take children into care to improve outcomes for them and, as corporate parents, should have equally high aspirations for the children they look after.
The number of looked after children in Warwickshire has increased by 8.5% over the past five years from 636 children at 31 March 2011 to 690 at 31 March 2015. Warwickshire’s rate of looked after children is 62 per 10,000 children under 18 years, higher than the England average (60) and considerably higher than Warwickshire’s statistical neighbours (49) at 31st March 2014.
Children aged between 10 and 15 years represent the majority of the looked after population in Warwickshire (39%), while children under one year old are in the minority (6% of the looked after population). Warwickshire’s looked after population includes slightly more boys than girls (54% compared with 46%). These age and gender related distributions have remained relatively constant over the past five years and are comparable to the national picture.
At District/Borough level, (based on which social care team a child has been allocated to at the first point of contact), Nuneaton & Bedworth has the highest rate of looked after children at 95 per 10,000 children under 18 years (as at 31st March 2015), whereas Stratford-on-Avon District has the lowest rate (33 per 10,000 children under 18 years). The rate of looked after children has increased across all Districts/Boroughs in Warwickshire over the past five years, with the exception of Warwick District. The largest increase in the rate of looked after children was in Nuneaton & Bedworth, which has seen a rise of 56% since 2010.
At CCG level, at 31st March 2014, Warwickshire North CCG had the highest rate of looked after children with a rate of 82 per 10,000 children. Coventry & Rugby CCG had the highest numbers of looked after children, 739 children and a rate of 77. South Warwickshire CCG had the lowest number and rate of looked after children (204 children and a rate of 41).
Over half of children in Warwickshire are first looked after due to ‘abuse or neglect’ (56%), followed by ‘family dysfunction’ (17%). Other reasons include ‘family in acute stress’ (12%), ‘absent parenting’ (8%) and ‘socially unacceptable behaviour’ (4%).
Looked after children are at greater risk of not realising their potential and having poorer outcomes in terms of educational attainment, higher secondary school absence, increased risk of offending, substance abuse and increased likelihood of young pregnancies.
Evidence shows that the longer a child remains in foster care, the more successful they are likely to be. In 2014/15, over two thirds (69%) of children leaving care over the age of 16 in Warwickshire remained looked after until their 18th birthday, higher than the national three year average (67%).
In 2014/15, under two in five (39%) care leavers aged 19-21 years were in Education, Employment or Training (EET), compared with a national average of 45%. The likelihood of care leavers being in EET reduces as they get older (45% at age 19 compared with 31% at age 21). However, there is no obligation for care leavers to remain in contact with the local authority after they turn 18. If only those care leavers who are in contact are included in the figures, 59% of Warwickshire care leavers were in EET, highlighting the importance of encouraging Warwickshire’s young care leavers to engage with the services on offer to them.
Closing the gap between the educational attainment of looked after children and all young people is a high priority in Warwickshire. Two thirds of looked after pupils in Warwickshire matched to the 2014 School Census had a special educational need (SEN) and a third had a statement of SEN. This is a factor which is likely to contribute to holding attainment of looked after children below that for all pupils.
In 2014, at the end of Key Stage 4, out of a cohort of 49 pupils, 14% achieved 5+ A*-C GCSEs including English and Maths compared with 60% of all pupils, an attainment gap of 46 percentage points.
Although most looked after children have the same health issues as their peers, the extent of these is often greater, exacerbated by their past experiences. For example, almost half of children in care have a diagnosable mental health disorder.
Statutory health assessments must be carried out for looked after children, including routine dental checks and preventative measures such as immunisation. The figure on the right shows the proportion of children looked after continuously for one year or more in Warwickshire who received an annual health assessment, dental check and were up to date with their immunisations.
The Children Looked After (CLA) JSNA has been published and is available using to view by using the link below:
Children Looked After Needs Assessment (PDF, 1.9 MB)