Over the last eight years, the number of Looked After Children (LAC) increased from 60,000 in 2008 to 73,000 by 2017, of whom only about 6% are likely to go on to university (Times Higher Education, 2018). Data published by the Children Commissioners’ Stability Index2018 report further reveals that LAC continue to suffer from instability within the care system. For example, during the 2016/17 period, over 10,000 LAC experienced either a placement move, school move or a change in social worker. Moreover, it is estimated that 45% of LAC have a diagnosable mental disorder, compared to 10% of all children (Department of Health, 2017). In addition, cuts to early years and youth services fell to £0.5bn during 2016/17, fuelling concerns that children are becoming increasingly susceptible to falling through the gaps into what is already an overstretched and overwhelmed care system.
In recognition of the need to improve care and opportunities for LAC, as part of the Child and Social Work Act 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) published statutory guidance for Promoting the education of LAC and previously LAC (February 2018), to minimise disruption and improve the educational achievement of LAC. This is backed by Government pledges to increase funding for Personal Advisers to over £12 million by 2021, and provide £7 million a year until 2020 for the extension of the Virtual School Heads scheme. Moreover, the Government introduced a £1m pilot scheme to ensure children in care receive ‘high quality’ mental health assessments. This announcement follows the publication of the Government’s Children and Young People’s Mental Health Green Paper (December, 2017) backed by an additional £1.4 billion, which aims to improve access to mental health services for children and young people.
However, councils in England are spending nearly half of their entire children’s services budget on children in the care system, leaving the remaining half to cover 11.7 million children. This is despite warnings to the Government that ongoing funding cuts have left councils struggling to support vulnerable children and families, with estimates forecasting that councils are set to face a £2billion funding gap by 2020. Consequently, spending on preventative support services for LAC such as Sure Start, have suffered a 14% drop in centre numbers (Sutton Trust, 2018).
With the majority of children’s services budget spent on Looked After Children, this symposium offers an invaluable opportunity for looked-after social workers, education and children’s services teams, local authorities and key other stakeholders to discuss how best to improve the lives and outcomes of children in care.
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January 24th, 2019 10:15 AM through 4:30 PM