30,000 children taken into care last year

 

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Nearly 30,000 children were taken into care last year, figures showed today.

A total of 67,050 youngsters - nearly 7,000 more than the capacity of Arsenal's Emirates Stadium - were looked after by English social services departments in the year to March, according to the Department for Education.

The total in care rose 2 per cent in a year which represents an increase of 13 per cent compared with March 2008, when social workers started recommending more children be taken into care following the death of Peter Connelly, known as Baby P.

Today's figures showed 1,300 more children were in care compared with the previous year and 28,220 youngsters started to be looked after in 2011-12, an increase of 3 per cent from the previous 12 months.

The statistics also showed more youngsters being adopted, with 3,450 given permanent homes in the 12 months to April - the highest figure since 2007 and an increase of 12 per cent from last year.

Children's minister Edward Timpson said: “The rise in the number of adoptions and adoption placement orders is extremely welcome, but it still takes too long for those who want to adopt and foster to be approved.

”The time it takes for a child in care to be adopted can be a significant period in that child's life.“

Of the 67,000 children in local authority care, 50,000 were with foster families, with the others housed elsewhere, including care homes.

Mr Timpson, whose parents fostered abandoned youngsters, said a Government shake-up of the system would cut the time children spent in care before they were adopted.

Ministers want children moved around England if suitable parents can be found.

He added: ”I know from my own family that parents who adopt and foster bring stability to young lives - that is why we are overhauling adoption.

“But I know that our reforms will take time to make a full impact, so we are looking at measures to encourage councils to make use of adopters in other parts of the country.”

He said the Government would simplify and shorten the approval process and fast-track existing foster carers to the front of the queue.

“Taken together I hope these reforms will, over time, encourage more people to come forward and volunteer to adopt children,” he said.

“That way, they can make a profound and lasting impact on young lives.”

The British Association for Adoption and Fostering was "pleased" with the rise in the number of youngsters adopted, but urged more potential adoptive parents to offer their homes.

Chief executive David Holmes said: "The latest statistics provide an encouraging base on which to build.

"To make further progress we need to see a concerted whole system focus on increasing adopter recruitment, speeding up court processes, improving the adopter assessment process and ensuring adoption support.

"We know that adoption works and we owe it to every child who has a plan for adoption to realise that plan for them without delay."

The Action for Children charity backed the Government's reforms, hoping they would tackle the rising number of youngsters in care.

Its strategic manager for looked after children, Jane Butler, said: "The number of children in the English care system is at an all-time high and today's statistics flag that this number is continuing to rise year-on-year.

"While it is encouraging to see that more adoption and fostering matches have taken place in 2012 than in previous years, this welcome news is offset by the increasing breakdown of placements, which only serves to cause further disruption for children who have already encountered so much in their young lives.

"We support an adoption system that focuses on achieving the best outcomes for children, which means finding a stable and secure home for the long-term."

PA

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