Number of children in care at an all-time high while adoption rates fall

There has also been an 18% fall in the number of children in care who were adopted in the last year.

The number of children looked after by local authorities in England has risen to an all-time high of 80,850 in 2021, up 1% on the previous year and indicative of a continuing rise seen in recent years.

The figures released by the Department of Education (DoE) that week also show an 18% fall in the number of adopted children, with this figure falling year on year from a previous peak in 2015.

The DoE say this is likely driven by the impact on court proceedings during the pandemic, where cases progressed more slowly than normal or were paused due to COVID lockdown measures.

Other key findings include:

  • The number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children was down 20% on last year. Although this had also decreased slightly the previous year, this year has seen a much steeper fall and is likely due to travel restrictions during the year.
  • In general, health checks were maintained during the pandemic but the proportion of CLA having had their teeth checked by a dentist fell substantially to 40%, down from 86% last year.

Commenting when the figures were released last week, Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “Today’s figures highlight the significant number of children living under the care of local authorities, not in their own homes.

“We see first-hand the essential role foster carers and residential homes play in our social care system, and in our society. However, in too many cases, avoidable situations spiral into crisis due to lack of available early intervention.

“While the cost of housing children in residential homes has increased significantly over the last few years, we have seen investment in prevention fall. This is morally indefensible and a huge economic waste.

“The government must now double down on its Spending Review commitments to invest in early help services and provide a clear legal framework for children who need support. This is one of the best ways to keep children and families safe together.”

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