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An analysis of the English Looked After Children Population

The government produces an annual statistical report of the numbers of children that are looked after by local authorities as at the end of March. This comes from the SSDA903 return produced by local authorities.

They compare this number to the number of children adopted from care each year. That, of course, is a statistical error as they are comparing numbers of children to numbers per year.

However, it is worth looking in a bit of detail at the numbers anyway:

The total number of children in looked after by local authorities (apart from short term placements) as at 31st March 2015 was 69,540. Of those 19,850 were voluntarily in care under S20 placements. 290 were in the youth justice system. That leaves 42,030 under interim or final care orders - I assume that also includes an EPO, 20 "freed for adoption." That means they were identified as needing adoption by 30 December 2005 and still have not been adopted. (See A&S v Lancashire County Council for an example of this). 7,320 had a placement order for adoption (which was the system introduced in 2006). 40 were "detained for child protection". This is what people call police protection (or sometimes a police protection order).

Hence we have 19,850+290 who are not really in the target for adoption.

Another way of looking at the looked after population is by age. 3,710 babies (under 1), 10,120 infants (under 5), 14,310 5-9 year olds, 26,140 10-15 year olds and 15,270 children over 15.

Sadly the table A1 in the Statistical First Release does not distinguish between those on S20 and those not on S20.

Let us now consider the children adopted. That is table E1 in the SFR. 5,330 children were adopted from care. 230 were babies, 4,050 infants, 990 5-9 and 60 10-15. There was at least one child over 16 adopted from care.

Unsurprisingly it is mainly under 5s that are adopted (that is why I get the department to do a special analysis of the under 5s on care orders).

If we consider the figures for under 5s we have 13,830 children under 5 in care as at 31st March and 4,280 children being adopted.

Expressing the proportion as a percentage (which is is not because of different dimensions in numerator and denominator) it is 31%. That, of course, is a lot more than the government's oft quoted 7% figure.

It is always going to be rare to get an adoptive family for a child over 10 (60 adoptions, 41,410 children looked after). It is going to be unusual for children between 5 and 10. (990 adoptions, 14,310 children looked after).

This is part of the government's confusion about adoption and potential adoption numbers.

The source information is here

In terms of children coming into care 19,300 came into care on S20 (C1). 15,410 left care whilst on S20 in the same year (D1). Obviously some could have gone onto care orders again the government statistics don't really explain this properly. The under 5 year old stats that I have prepared deal with this issue properly.

Whatever way you want to put it, however, the system for the younger children has as its priority getting children adopted. The annual numbers could only be quadrupled (as suggested by Martin Narey) by either taking a lot more younger children into care or getting lots of teenagers adopted.

In terms of starting to be looked after there were 5,810 babies and 5,870 infants (C1).

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