HERTFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
Agenda Item No.
CHILDREN’S SERVICES AND CORPORATE PARENTING
WEDNESDAY 3 FEBRUARY 2010 AT 10.00 AM
DEMOGRAPHIC PROFILE OF CHILDREN LOOKED AFTER IN
Report of the Director of Children, Schools and Families
Author: Jill Forrest (Children’s Service Manager for Children Looked After)
Tel: 01442 453029
Executive Member: Jane Pitman, Children’s Services
1. Purpose of report
To provide the panel with an analysis of the demographic picture of
Hertfordshire’s Children and Young People who are Looked After. To
help Members to understand who they are responsible for as
Corporate Parents and to raise some important emerging themes
which will be the subject of subsequent reports and proposals to the
Children’s Services and Corporate Parenting Panel.
This report presents a demographic picture of the children and young people
who are Looked After by Hertfordshire. The figures are based on the Social
Care Dataset for 30-11-2009.
The data is accompanied by some explanation and discussion.
The Summary at the end of the report details the themes which have
emerged and some of the work that is being undertaken in these areas.
This report does not seek to provide needs analysis regarding placements or
education. These will be dealt with in more detail in subsequent reports.
This information is for the panel to note at this stage.
Demographic Profile of Children and Young People who are Looked
After in Hertfordshire
The numbers of CLA in Hertfordshire.
Hertfordshire had 1135 Children and Young People Looked After at the end
of November 2009. The population is not a static group and the profile and
needs of those who remain in the group also change over time.
795 Children and Young People started to be looked after between April 2008
and October 2009, whilst only 572 ceased to be Looked After during the
same period. This has resulted in an overall increase in the number of
Children Looked After.
This chart shows that the rise in the total number of Children and Young
People has increased more quickly during the first half of the April 09-10 year
than it did the year before.
Figure 1 The numbers of CLA in Hertfordshire
Numbers of CLA
The number of BME children is shown here for reference.
Some contributing factors causing the rise in numbers are likely to be: the
greater national focus on effective practice for keeping children safe following
the baby P reports; the recession which causes additional stress in families;
and the Southwark Judgment in respect of homeless 16+.
Since June 09 the reporting figures have been split for the age groups and
this shows that the steepest rise in the CLA numbers is in the 16+ population.
(Figure 12 in Appendix 1 shows actual numbers of 16+ starting to be Looked
After before and after Judgement. A detailed report on 16+ and Leaving Care
will be presented to panel in April)
The current populations’ age profile is heavily weighted to the teenage years,
with an average age of 11.49. This is as a result of a large number of existing
Young People already in long term care growing into this age group, and
Young People becoming newly Looked After. Please see figure 2.
Figure 2 The ages of our current CLA population
The age which our current children started to be Looked After
The current population has much greater numbers of older adolescents but
historically they became Looked After across the age range.
Many Local Authorities had similar policies and practice. Typically there were
low numbers of adoptions for children under 10 and few other permanent
alternatives to care being explored. As these Young People reach their
teenage years their numbers are then further increased by the increased
numbers of older Teenagers becoming Looked After.
Figure 3 The age that our current children started to be Looked After
This spread across the age range suggests that in the past children of all
ages were becoming Looked After and that many, including young children
were given a care plan of Long Term Care.
New Starters April 2008 and November 2009
The pattern of new CLA starters over the last 18 months has not followed the
same historical pattern and shows that in more recent times there have been
a much lower levels of new starters in the 3 to 13 age group with high
numbers of babies and a bulge at age s 14-18
A significant proportion of Children became Looked After during their first
year. This then reduced until the teenage years when 15 has been the peak
age for becoming Looked After during the last 19 months.
Figure 4 New Starters April 2008 and November 2009
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Seasonal patterns and variation.
There has been a similar pattern of increase from April to July in both 08 and
9, however the lower numbers in August 08 were not mirrored in 09.
Figure 5 Seasonal patterns and variation
Number Starting CLA
40 Number Starting CLA
How long have our current CLA been looked after?
The history of Children and Young People having care plans for long term
care is that they mostly remain Looked After until they are18.
There is therefore a legacy of Children under16 who are set to be Looked
After for many years to come unless we can find ways to encourage their
current long term carers to seek parental responsibility, through a Special
Guardianship Order, Adoption or Residence Order
Work has started to explore what obstacles prevent this from happening.
These mainly relate to the loss of financial and personal support for the carer
and the child over time. This is being looked at to see if there is a business
case for developing a specific package to address this issue.
If a specific package could be devised which would enable carers to consider
this option, then the target group for this would be placements of more than 3
years stability. A subsequent paper will be submitted regarding this work and
Figure 6 shows the 288 Children and Young people who have been in stable
placements for more than 3 years and their current age.
Figure 6. Age of the Children and Young People in the same placement for
more than 3 years
It is easy to see from this graph that it will be many more years before most of
these young people will be 18. NB the drop in stability at age 14 reflects the
number of long term care placements which disrupt at this age. This is also a
significant driver to provide permanent alternative families for children who
cannot return to their birth families or friends.
Effective Assessment and Care Planning
Effective Assessment and Care Planning for children before and after they
become looked after is crucial to ensure that only those children and young
people who need to be Looked After are receiving these services.
It is a complex picture.
Good integrated planning and the provision of targeted services does prevent
some children’s circumstances from escalating to a point where they need to
be Looked After.
Co-ordinated targeted services also help identify children at an earlier age
whose parents cannot keep them safe or are unable to meet their emotional
needs as they grow up. The younger children are when this is established the
greater is the opportunity for intervention to improve parenting and where this
is not effective then an alternative family can be found before the child suffers
any more harm.
If a child has been identified as needing specialist social care then effective
Assessment and Care Planning becomes even more significant both in
achieving good outcomes for children and in terms of the length of time that
the child requires an intensive service.
The length of time that the child requires an intensive service, whether as a
child at home or a child Looked After has implications for resources.
One indicator of the effectiveness of assessment and care planning is the
legal status of our Children Looked After
Figure 7 The Legal Status of our Children and Young People who are Looked
43% of our Children and Young People who are Looked After are
Accommodated under Section 20 of the Children Act 89. Legally this means
that their birth parents have agreed to Hertfordshire Looking After their
Children and Young People, or the Young Person has requested it
The parents are legally the main decision makers for them as Hertfordshire
do not have parental responsibility, whilst still having Corporate Parenting
responsibility because we are Looking After them. Section 20
Accommodation is really intended for periods of time where the parent is
unable to care for their child. It is not intended to be a Long term care
arrangement in the majority of cases.
This is often the legal status used for friends and family placements during
the first few months of assessment for return to a parent. If no return is
agreed then the placement can continue long term, this practice needs to be
6% have a Placement Order allowing them to be placed for adoption
36% are subject to Full Care Orders with no Placement Order, suggesting
that their care plan is not adoption
14% are the subject of active care proceedings which is a significant resource
requirement in the short term but it should result in tighter assessment and
planning timescales and lead to more effective sourcing of permanent
alternatives to Long Term Care Planning.
Where care proceedings are in progress there is greater focus on
assessments and statements which demonstrate the reasons for decisions, it
also provides greater scrutiny to care planning and can reduce delay if court
timescales are adhered to. Courts can also cause further delay in reaching an
agreed permanent placement.
Types of Care Plans
There has been a national move to the principle that all children should have
a family to which they belong permanently and where they can live safely
during their childhood. This can be achieved in a number of ways
More effective pre Looked After support for parents and Children and
Young People preventing the need for them to become Looked After.
More timely and parallel (contingency) assessments and planning
during the first 10 months of a Child or Young Person becoming
Looked After, leading to better exit planning including
o Earlier return to primary parent where safe,
o Going to live permanently with another parent where safe,
o Permanent alternative family through a friend or extended family
adult getting Parental Responsibility through Special
Guardianship Order or Residence Order.
o Permanent alternative family not previously known to the child
by Adoption for 10 years and under.
o Sourcing families for older children for medium term Fostering
with the view to Special Guardianship Order within 2 years
How have Children and Young People ceased to be Looked After since April
The information required by our data system is not very sophisticated at
present but what is available is shown in figure 8 and indicates that
Residence Orders and Special Guardianship Orders may be underused as an
alternative to Long Term care. This needs further exploration.
Figure 8 Exit reasons recorded since April 2008
I have provided an overview of the demographic information for the children
and young people who are Looked After by Hertfordshire. The analysis raises
a number of themes:
1) A permanent family with someone who has Parental Responsibility for
them should be the aim for every child. For children who cannot live their
childhood with one of their parents, every effort should be made to secure
their future in a permanent family through Adoption, Special Guardianship or
Residence Orders. Efficient Assessment and Care Planning are essential for
alternatives to be explored simultaneously to avoid delay.
New plans for Long Term Care should be infrequent and only agreed where
the needs of the child cannot be met through a permanent alternative family.
There has already been some movement towards this practice but this is not
consistent across the County- work has begun to pool all the existing Care
Planning tracking information and this will be used to inform a more detailed
analysis leading to an action plan.
2) We have a large number of children between 5 and 16 who are in
Long Term care and are likely stay in our numbers for many years- these
are a known group and some detailed planning and projections will enable
planning for their resource requirements in future years.
3) Some of our Children who have Long Term Care Plans and are in
stable placements might be able to leave care through a specific
package to support existing carers to apply for Special Guardianship
orders. Work has already begun on a business case and proposals in this
regard, including projections of any corresponding increase in Adoption, SGO
and RO allowances and support services.
4) Some children and young people need to be Looked After for a period
of time to ensure that they are safe now and in the future. Good support
for children and young people at home reduces the number of Children and
Young people who need to be Looked After at all and also assist in their safe
early return home. Integrated practice at targeted level, Family Group
Conferences, the Specialist Children’s Services are all working to improve
5) The increased number in the age range of 16-18 years is due to our
children in Long Term care getting older and the increased number
starting to be looked after- Lin Phillips CSM for the Independent Support
Service will be presenting a paper to panel on these and other Leaving Care
Issues in April 2010
This paper sets out the current demographic position for Children Looked
After in Hertfordshire and sets the scene for a number of areas for further
work which will lead to subsequent papers in due course.
5. Financial Implications
Members are not being asked to consider any financial implications at
Appendix 1- Additional information
Figure 9 The current Gender
There are more boys than girls
Figure 10 The current Ethnicity
Figure 11. Social Work Service areas
The chart below shows which teams are providing the Social Work Service for
Children and Young People who are currently Looked After by Hertfordshire.
Aug 09 Sept 09 Oct 09 Nov 09 Dec 09 Jan 10
CLA are the Children Looked After Teams for medium and long term care
Safeguarding includes the Assessment and Locality Teams
ISS is Independent Support Services
Central teams is mainly the Asylum and Refugee Team for Unaccompanied
DCT is Disabled Childrens Teams
Figure 12 New CLA Starters 16+ November 2008 to December 2009
showing effect of Southwark Judgement
Blue are the new starters before the judgement and pink are those after.