Children Looked After
|The total number of looked after children has fallen again, although the rate of decrease has slowed|
|The use of Permanence Orders is increasing as the use of Compulsory Supervision Orders declines|
|Adoptions of looked after children increased to its highest level on record|
This section presents data on children looked after during the period from 1 August 2015 to 31 July 2016. This will be referred to as 2016 for ease of reporting (with 2014-15 referred to as 2015 and so on). Local authorities have a responsibility to provide support to certain vulnerable young people, known as 'looked after children'. A young person may become looked after for a number of reasons; including neglect, abuse, complex disabilities which require specialist care, or involvement in the youth justice system.
At 31 July 2016, there were 15,317 looked after children - a decrease of 83 (or less than one per cent) from 2015. This is the fourth consecutive year the numbers have decreased following a peak of 16,248 in 2012, although this year's decline is small, numbers in care are stabilising. The amount of care leavers each year has been consistently more than the amount starting, although both numbers have also been declining - see tables 1.3 and 1.4.
The increase in Permanence Orders referred to above is presented in additional tables 2.5a and b - this presents three legal reasons ('Freed for Adoption', 'Permanence Order' and 'Permanence Order with authority to place for adoption') as 'legally secure permanence', and shows that together they have increased every year since 2012, and now stand at 1,971, a 12% increase on 2015.
There are several types of placement in which looked after children or young people could be placed, including at home (where a child is subject to a Compulsory Supervision Order and continues to live in their normal place of residence), foster care, residential unit or school, a secure unit or a kinship placement (where they are placed with friends or relatives).
Table 1.1 and chart 1 show there is a continued decreasing trend in children being looked after at home with this group accounting for only 25% of the total in 2016 compared to 34% in 2011. Increasing numbers of children are being looked after away from home in community settings, in particular with foster carers (35% of the total). Foster care and kinship care are the most common settings for looked after children now, but there has been a slight decline in numbers being fostered this year, while the proportion in kinship care continues to increase. Numbers of children looked after in residential care settings have been fairly static over recent years at just under 10% of the overall total.
Table 1.1: Number of children looked after by type of accommodation (1)
(1) Information on the number of children looked after by accommodation type is available back to 1971 in Table 1.1a of the excel version of the publication tables: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/PubChildrenSocialWork
(2) 'In other community' is a category that captures those people in e.g. supported accommodation.
(3) The bulk of the 'other residential' placements are private/independent residential placements for young people with complex needs.
Chart 1: Children looked after per 1,000 children under 18 by type of accommodation 1987-2016
When children become looked after, a care plan should be produced. The care plan should include detailed information about the child's care, education and health needs, as well as the responsibilities of the local authority, the parents and the child. A care plan is considered 'current' if it has been produced or reviewed in the past 12 months.
Table 1.2: Children looked after with and without a current care plan, at 31 July 2016 (1)
|At home||Away from home||Away from home - breakdown by category||Total|
|With Kinship Carers: friends/relatives||With Foster Carers||With prospective adopters/ other community||In Residential Care|
|With a current care plan||3,561||10,767||3,712||5,309||287||1,459||14,328|
|Without a current care plan||309||680||567||83||12||18||989|
|With a current care plan||92||94||87||98||96||99||94|
|Without a current care plan||8||6||13||2||4||1||6|
(1) Local authorities vary in their recording of care plans being in place, so some children without a current care plan may in fact have one in progress on this date.
Table 1.2 shows that 94% of the 15,317 children who were looked after at the end of July 2016 had a current care plan, a one per cent decrease on 2015. There was little difference between children looked after at home and away from home.
Children starting and ceasing to be looked after
The reduction in total numbers being looked after is simply because more people are leaving care than starting. A child will be counted more than once in each set of figures if they have started being looked after and/or ceased being looked after more than once during the reporting year.
As shown in table 1.3, 4,116 episodes of care began between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2016 - the lowest figure since at least 2000. Table 1.3 shows a two per cent decrease from 2015 and a 13% decrease from 2006.
Table 1.3: Number of children starting to be looked after by age (1)
(1) Table excludes planned series of short term placements.
(2) The 18-21 category in this table may include a small number of looked after young people who were over 21 years.
Table 1.3 also shows that over the last 10 years children have started to be looked after at younger ages. In 2006, 30% of children starting to be looked after were under five years of age. By 2016 this had risen to 38%, although this is a decline from a peak of 41% in 2014. A large proportion of this group are the under-one year olds, and the numbers in this youngest group have increased by 59% since 2006, but have declined slightly since 2014. There has also been a corresponding decrease in the proportion of children aged 12-17 starting to be looked after since 2006.
There were slightly more boys than girls starting to be looked after in 2016 - 54% compared to 46% of girls (the last census showed that the general population was 51% boys aged under 18); the number of boys starting to be looked after has been steady in recent years while the number of girls has been falling. This means that the trend has returned to the longer-term gender split of around 54% boys of children starting to be looked after, after there were near equal percentages of boys and girls entering care in 2011 and 2013.
Table 1.4: Number of children ceasing to be looked after, by length of time looked after (1)
(1) Excludes children who are on a planned series of short term placements. If a child ceases to be looked after more than once during the year they will be counted more than once.
Table 1.4 and Chart 2 show the number of children who ceased being looked after by length of time looked after. There were 4,223 children who ceased being looked after between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2016, a decrease of three per cent from the 2015 figure (4,371) and the smallest number of care leavers since 2007. However, this still represents an overall increase of nine per cent ten years ago.
The total length of time children had been looked after remained similar between 2015 and 2016. However in the longer-term, there are more children being looked after for more than five years, and fewer in care for only a period of weeks. This implies that children are more likely to remain looked after until a permanent placement is found.
Just as children are starting to be looked after at a younger age over the longer-term, children are also ceasing to be looked after at younger ages. The number of children ceasing to be looked after who were under the age of 12 was 43% in 2006 and is now 50%. However, most of the change occurred around 2010 and has seen little variation since. Fuller information can be found in the published Excel tables which accompany this release - see Annex B for details.
Table 1.5: Number of children ceasing to be looked after by destination (1)
(1) Table excludes planned series of short term placements. A child may cease to be looked after more than once during the year and will be counted once for each episode of care ending. Some totals do not exactly equal the sum of their component parts due to the effects of rounding.
(2) "Other" includes residential care, homeless, in custody and other destination.
Illustration 2: Proportional representation of post-care destinations (based on table 1.5)
When a child ceases being looked after, a destination category is recorded (Table 1.5). Most children (61% in 2016) go home to their biological parents and 16% go to live in kinship care with friends or relatives. The percentage leaving care that go home has fallen consistently over the last four years. There is a long term increase in the number of adoptions when leaving care, and although they decreased slightly between 2014 and 2015, they increased to their highest level of 8% in 2016. The majority of adoptions (70%) are of children aged under five years old. There is a much more even spread of ages of young people leaving care to go home or to live with friends and relatives. There has been an improvement in data quality over the past five years, as shown by the large decrease of the 'Not known' category in chart 2.
Chart 2: Percentage difference by destination between 2011 and 2016
Local authorities are required to carry out a pathway assessment for aftercare services on young people who have reached 16 years of age, but are still looked after, within three months of the young person becoming compulsorily supported by the local authority. Local authorities have a duty to provide advice, guidance and assistance for young people who at the point of leaving care have reached 16 years of age. This is referred to as 'aftercare services'. These young people should be provided with a pathway co-ordinator who assesses their needs and a pathway plan which outlines how the local authority plans to meet the needs of the young person.
Of those young people who had reached 16 years of age at the time they ceased to be looked after during 1 August 2015 to 31 July 2016, 65% had a pathway plan and 72% had a pathway co‑ordinator (table 1.6). Where a young person's final placement type was 'at home' they were less likely to have a pathway plan or a pathway co-ordinator than if the final placement type was 'away from home'. Table 1.6 shows that, of children whose last placement was at home, 47% had a pathway plan and 55% a pathway coordinator, compared with 75% and 81% respectively of those whose final placement type was 'away from home'.
Table 1.6: Pathway plans and nominated pathway co-ordinators of young people who were at least 16 years of age on the date they ceased to be looked after during 2015-16 (1),(2)
|Percentage||Away from home - breakdown by category|
|Looked after at home||Looked after away from home||Total||With Kinship Carers: friends/relatives||With Foster Carers||With prospective adopters/ other community||In Residential Care|
|With a pathway plan at discharge||47||75||65||61||76||81||82|
|Without a pathway plan at discharge||53||25||35||39||24||19||18|
|With a nominated pathway co-ord at discharge||55||81||72||77||81||78||83|
|Without a nominated pathway co-ord at discharge||45||19||28||23||19||22||17|
(1) Figures include all episodes of ceasing to be looked after 16 years of age (i.e. a child may be counted more than once).
(2) It may be the case that some young people who don't have a relevant pathway plan/coordinator may be receiving similar support from adult services instead.
Table 1.7 shows the proportion of young people eligible for aftercare services on 31 July 2016 by age and their economic activity. 'Economic activity' refers to whether a young person was in education, employment or training, or not.
Since April 2015, aftercare eligibility has been extended to cover all care leavers up to and including those people aged 25 where it previously only covered up to the age of 21, and this year's figures begin to reflect that. It has not been possible to obtain complete data on the new 22-25 age group this year, but this is the aim for the 2016-17 collection.
There were 4,602 young people reported to be eligible for aftercare services on 31 July 2016, of whom 34% were known to not be receiving aftercare. 50% of those receiving aftercare for whom current activity is known were in education, training or employment. This is a three per cent increase on 2015 (see also AT1.16).
For young people eligible for aftercare, more than half have taken up these services in some way. More of the 19-21 group are not in education, training or employment, and more of this group are receiving aftercare compared to the other age groups. For the new 22+ group, most are not receiving aftercare, which may be expected given that eligibility for this group is a relatively recent implementation, and many may have moved onto adult services where required.
Table 1.7: Percentage of young people eligible for aftercare services by age and economic activity, at 31 July 2016 (1)
|In education, training or employment||27||26||26||31||16||27|
|Not in education, training or employment||22||26||25||33||16||27|
|Not receiving aftercare||37||31||35||24||60||34|
|Of those in education, training or employment|
|In higher education||15||20||21||24||33||23|
|In education other than HE||44||26||26||22||8||24|
|In training or employment||41||53||53||53||59||53|
|Not in education, training or employment|
|- due to short term illness||0||*||3||2||*||3|
|- due to long term illness or disability||*||*||8||11||*||8|
|- due to looking after family||*||*||7||11||12||9|
|- due to other circumstances||93||90||82||75||80||80|
(1) Cells containing * represent numbers that are suppressed to maintain confidentiality. Due to rounding, the totals for percentages may not equal the sum of their parts.
Cross- UK looked after comparisons
The definition of "looked after children" varies across the countries within the UK which makes cross UK comparisons difficult. In Scotland, children placed at home require a supervision order from the children's panel, whereas in England and Wales, being looked after at home is an informal situation put in place by a social worker, often as an interim measure until a foster or kinship care placement can be found.
To improve comparability, the Scotland figure at 31 March has been used below, rather than the published 31 July figure, as the other administrations publish on this date.
Chart 3 gives Scottish figures both including and excluding children looked after at home. There appears to be some stability in the figures across the UK at the moment - all nations have rates that are relatively constant or only increasing very slightly, and these contrast with increases seen around the start of this decade.
Chart 3: Cross-UK comparison of rate of looked after children per 10,000 children, 2004-2016
Links to the cross- UK data underlying Chart 3 can be found in Background Note 1.7. There is more information on the comparability of looked after children data across the UK: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/socialservicestats
There are additional tables on looked after children available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/PubChildrenSocialWork
Email: Ian Volante