Trends in Care

Exploring reasons for the increase in children looked after by local authorities

Author/Editor(s):
Format:
Paperback / softback, 47 pages, 297 mm x 210 mm
ISBN:
9780854736645
Published:
1 Jul 2002
Imprint:
Institute of Education

Price: £7.95

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National statistics show that since 1996, the number of children looked after has increased by 15 per cent. The number of days of care provided has increased almost as much, from 18.2 million in 1996 to 20.8 million in 2000. Children are entering care at a younger age, are more likely to be looked after under formal care orders, and are spending longer periods of time being looked after – on average, 617 days per child. Since the average weekly spend on a child in care is nearly five times the cost of a child supported at home or independently, these increases are likely to contribute significantly to pressures on children’s services budgets. Extensive analysis of the statistics and local authority fieldwork by Statham, Candappa, Simon and Owen explore possible reasons for the changing rate of children looked after. They address various hypotheses (included staffing issues, increased awareness of parental drug and alcohol problems, pressure from external agencies, and an increase in unaccompanied asylum seekers) and make valuable recommendations for good social services practice relating to children looked after.

  • June Statham

    Thomas Coram Research Unit

    Institute of Education, University of London

  • Mano Candappa

    Thomas Coram Research Unit

    Institute of Education, University of London

  • Antonia Simon

    Thomas Coram Research Unit

    Institute of Education, University of London

  • Charlie Owen

    Thomas Coram Research Unit

    Institute of Education, University of London

1. Introduction and background to the study
Introduction
Reasons for children being in need
Differences in local authority policy and practice
Availability of services to support children and families
Use of the courts
Use of kinship care
Objectives of the study
2. Methods
Secondary analysis
Selection of authorities to visit
Fieldwork in selected local authorities
Interviews with key officers
Analysis of documentation
Social worker questionnaire
3. Findings from the secondary analysis
National trends
Variations between local authorities
Change in volume of care (days per 10,000, 1996-2000)
Accounting for local variation
Volume
Flow
Legal Status
Age
Type of Placement
Duration
Reasons why children enter care
Staffing levels
Other factors
Child asylum seekers
Drug misuse
Deprivation
Availability of family support services
Summary
4. Indications from fieldwork
Introduction
Findings
Factors of little significance to CLA numbers
Factors of mainly local significance
Factors of significance for all or many authorities
Views of social workers
Factors of possible significance in authorities showing a decrease in CLA
Notable developments since March 2000 returns: three case studies
Discussion
Social factors
Historical factors
Legal factors
Structural and administrative factors
5. Conclusions
Overview
Increase in care orders
Variation between authorities
Authorities with reduced number of days
Authorities with reduced volume of care
Hypotheses revisited
Looking forward
Appendices
Interview topics
Sample of summary statistics sent to local authorities