Annual statistics show rise in number of looked after children, fall in adoptions

New data – covering a time period largely before the effects of the pandemic – shows a 2% rise in the number of children looked after, as well as a 4% drop in the number of adoptions.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that there were 80,080 Children Looked After (CLA) on 31 March 2020 – 2% higher than the previous year and nearly 25% higher than a decade ago. The most common reason for children being taken into care remained abuse or neglect, which has been gradually rising over a number of years.

The data also showed a 4% drop in the number of CLA who were adopted, while the number of children ceasing to be looked after remained similar to previous years.

Responding to the data, Jenny Coles, ADCS President said: “These figures are largely unaffected by the Covid 19 pandemic. While the true impact of national and local lockdowns on vulnerable children and families is only starting to emerge, we anticipate that it will remain with us throughout next year and beyond, with families presenting greater complexity of need. It is essential that we have both the capacity and resources to meet these needs as quickly as possible.

“ADCS research shows that the number of children in care has increased significantly over the past decade, while local authorities have faced a 50% reduction in budgets since 2010. Yet despite the barriers, we continue to work intensively with children and families to enable them to stay together safely.”

There has also been a noticeable change in the legal status of CLA in recent years. Both the number and proportion of CLA under a care order have increased, whilst the number and proportion looked after under a voluntary agreement – or section 20 arrangement – have decreased; a result of then family court chief James Munby’s guidance warning against their overuse.

The figures also showed that 20% of CLA were placed further than 20 miles from their home, with only 58% being placed inside the council boundary.

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