The graph above highlights the admission and discharge numbers since 2012/13 and illustrates the overall sharp increase in numbers between 2013 and 2018. Changes to the court process, the impact on practice of high profile abuse cases, increased accountabilities for Local Authorities around homelessness and young offenders, along with a national and regional increases, impacted on figures.
Since 2018 the number of children entering care had seen a year on year downturn, whilst in parallel the number of children being safely discharged from care has increased. This has led to an overall reduction in our Children in Care numbers in Warrington. This reduction is due to accumulation of a number of factors, including a robust early help offer, adequately resourced edge of care service, a focus on good quality pre-proceedings work and legal permanence for children exiting our care.
However, we still continue to anticipate pressure in relation to a number of areas including:
- An increase in court directed Mother and Baby Placements.
- Accommodation for young people with high level risk to self or others and needing semi- secure, therapeutic and or solo placements in residential settings.
- Sourcing family placements for adolescents and large sibling groups
- Provision for children with physical and learning care needs and those that may require medical care
- Asylum seekers and children of migrant worker families.
- Supported Provision for 16 to 18 year olds and care leavers up to 21 years old and in some instances 25.
Admission by age
According to the 903 2020 data, the percentage of babies under a year old coming into care was higher (25%), than national and regional averages (20%). Warrington also has slightly higher proportions of 1-4s admitted to care at 23% compared to 17% in England, and has broadly similar proportions of 5-9s (17%).
Our admissions of 10-15 year olds is lower (25%) than previous years, and lower than national (27%) and regional (26%) figures. Admissions of those aged 16+ are lower (11%) than the North West (14%) and the England average (20%). This is positive and can be partly attributed to the work taking place via our ‘Edge of Care’ short break service, who between April and October 2019 diverted 13 children from entering care. In the next 2-3 years we should start to see the impact of these changes in our overall Children in Care and Care Leavers figures.
There is acknowledgement that outcomes among first time entrants to care as teenagers can be poor, with a marked propensity to return to their households and communities once care episodes have concluded. There is evidence that adolescent entrants to the care system are more likely to experience multiple placements. They tend more often to experience disruption. They have poorer educational outcomes and a concomitantly raised likelihood of struggling in the labour market when they leave care.
The status awarded through the legal process to children in care is significant, as it does affect the options for accommodation in the short, medium and longer term. Along with a decrease in children in care numbers Warrington has seen a decrease in the number of Full Care Orders from 267 in March 2018 to 236 in March 2020. Over the last 12 months there has been a significant increase in the number of children subject to Interim Care Orders (ICO) from a low of 47 in 2019 to a high of 76 in 2020. Over the past 5 years, section 20 arrangements had remained stable, but we are now starting to see a decrease in numbers; from 55 in 2018 to 43 in 2020. This reduction in section 20 arrangements and a marked increase in ICOs supports the hypothesis that there is less ‘drift and delay’ in decision making when cases need to be placed before the court, which in turn leads to early permanence decisions for our children in care.