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Information on children on care orders and in placements, adoptions from care and numbers of children and young persons leaving care for April 2020 to March 2021.

‘Children looked after’ or ‘looked after children’ refers to children who are looked after by local authorities in Wales.

A child is a person who is aged under 18. Section 74 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act states that a child who is looked after by a local authority is a child who is in its care; or provided with accommodation, for a continuous period of more than 24 hours, by the authority in the exercise of any functions which are social services functions, apart from functions under section 15, Part 4, or section 109, 114 or 115.

Data in this annual update covers the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Whilst we cannot determine the exact impact of the pandemic, it is thought to be visible in the data through fewer children starting to be looked after, a higher proportion of children needing care due to family stress or dysfunction, fewer placement moves, fewer children leaving care and changes in the accommodation of young people leaving care.

Furthermore, policy changes primarily focussing on reducing the numbers of children in need of care across Wales were introduced in 2019-20. Local authorities have set plans in place to reduce safely the numbers of children in need of care, including targets for 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22, and are being monitored by Welsh Government policy officials.

At 31 March 2021

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Chart showing the number of children looked after at 31 March 2003 to 2021. Whilst the number of children looked after has increased each year in recent years, the scale of growth has been less.
  • 7,263 children were looked after(a) on 31 March 2021, an increase of 113 (2%) children when compared to the previous year. This equates to a rate of 115.3 per 10,000 population aged under 18, compared to a rate of 113.5 in 2019-20. Whilst the number of children looked after has increased each year in recent years, the scale of growth has been less.
  • 6,215 (86%) children were looked after under a care order. The majority of these children were looked after under full care orders; as opposed to interim care orders.
  • 5,072 (70%) children were accommodated in foster care placements, a gradual decline in proportion in recent years. Nearly a third (32%) of children in foster care were in placements with a relative or friends; a steady increase from 23% at 31 March 2017.

(a) Excludes children looked after exclusively under short breaks.

April 2020 to March 2021

  • 1,747 children started to be looked after(b), a decrease of 228 (12%) children compared to the previous year. Since 2016-17, fewer children have started being looked after each year; this has been more apparent from 2019-20 onwards.
  • 59% of the children who started to be looked after during the year were receiving care and support initially because of abuse or neglect, a decrease in proportion compared to around 65% in recent years. The proportion of children receiving care and support due to family in acute distress or dysfunction increased to 30% (from around 23% in recent years).
  • 7% of children looked after at 31 March 2021 had three or more placements during the year, the lowest proportion seen since data started being collected in 2002-03.
  • 1,657 children left care(c), a decrease of 14 (1%) children compared to the previous year. The number of children leaving care had been decreasing but has been fairly stable since 2018-19.
  • Almost half (48%) of the children who left care during the year returned home to live with parents, relatives or other persons with parental responsibility. A similar proportion has been seen in the last four years but this is a smaller proportion than seen prior to 2017-18.
  • 266 children were adopted from care, a decrease of 32 (11%) compared to the previous year.

(b) Where a child had multiple periods of care only the first period is counted.
(c) Where a child had multiple periods of care only the latest period is counted. Excludes children who died or where care was taken over by another local authority in the UK.

Notes

Further information, including local authority level breakdowns, can be found on StatsWales. Some figures for previous years have been revised.

Reports

Children looked after by local authorities: April 2020 to March 2021 (experimental statistics) , file type: PDF, file size: 1 MB

PDF
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Data

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Contact

Bethan Sherwood

Telephone: 0300 025 6735

Media

Telephone: 0300 025 8099