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Looked-after children in Wales rise by 10 per cent

The number of looked-after children in Wales has risen by 10 per cent in the last year, according to the National Statistics for Wales.

The figures show that 5,162 children were looked-after in Wales at the end of March 2010, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year. Over the last decade the number of children in care has risen in Wales by 44 per cent.

Over three quarters of looked-after children were in foster placements. But there was a rise of 17 per cent from the previous year of the number of children who had been in three or more placements in the year with 529 children experiencing three or more placements.

BASW chief executive Hilton Dawson warned that children were often put in foster placements according to availability rather than suitability. “We need to have enough foster carers to meet the needs of children. We don’t, and that is because we don’t support foster carers well enough, we don’t pay them enough and we don’t manage them effectively enough as partners.

“Social workers are forced to place children in places which are available rather than those which are actually most suitable to their needs because of a lack of resources. That contributes to the tragedy of placement breakdown and forced destruction heaped on children who have already had their lives massively disrupted from going into care and leaving their families,” Mr Dawson added.

The figures showed that the number of children starting to be looked-after in the year to 31 March 2010 had increased by almost a quarter, 23 per cent, with abuse or neglect being the main reason for social services engagement. The number of children adopted fell by 11 per cent in the year to Mach 2010.

Mr Dawson said there was heightened “nervousness” of agencies assessing risk following the tragic death of Baby Peter Connelly.

“Local authorities are being a bit more alert to child protection or a bit less willing to manage risky situations in the community and decide to put children into care. It’s almost certain there isn’t an increase in neglect and abuse.

“I don’t think it’s just about heightened awareness, I think it’s about everyone’s nervousness in managing risk,” he added.

However, the report showed that the educational attainment of looked-after children improved on the previous year as 44 per cent of looked-after children who were eligible for assessment at Key Stage 2 achieved the Core Subject Indicator compared to 40 per cent the previous year.

The proportion of care leavers aged over 16 who had 5 GCSEs from 29 per cent in 2008-2009 to 31 per cent in 2009-2010. But just 9 per cent% of children aged 16 or over who ceased being looked- after in the year ending 31 March got 5 or more GCSEs at grade A* to C, compared to the average this year of 66.4 per cent in Wales.

The report can be found on the Welsh Assembly Government website.